By Kimberly Maran — St. Louis, Missouri … On Wednesday afternoon, June 8, 2022, the General Conference (GC) in session voted to accept the nomination of G. Alexander Bryant as president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. Bryant is the incumbent; he began serving on July 9, 2020, when elected during a special NAD executive committee session, replacing the Daniel R. Jackson, who retired on July 1, 2020.
Soon after his election, Bryant briefly shared his thoughts. Said Bryant, “I am humbled by the election, and also privileged to serve and to lead the North American Division with such a tremendous team that we have in our office and across the territory. We’re excited about what God has planned and what He will do in our territory over the next three years; and we ask for your prayers.”
In addition to Bryant, the following presidents were voted for the term 2022-2025: Blasious Ruguri (East-Central Africa Division), Elie Henry (Inter-American Division), Mario Brito (Inter-European Division), Yo Han Kim (Northern-Asia Pacific Division), Stanley Edilson Arco (South American Division), Glenn Townend (South Pacific Division), Harrington Akombwa (Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division), Ezras Lakra (Southern Asia Division), Roger Caderma (Southern Asia-Pacific Division), Daniel Duda (Trans-European Division), and Robert Osei-Bonsu (West-Central Africa Division).
Before the vote, Lowell Cooper, chair of the nominating committee, explained the process of voting for the election of division presidents. “Every division has selected a group of its delegates to serve on the nominating committee. We have asked those groups of delegates to meet individually in a forum we call the division caucus. That group met under the facilitating work of a General Conference vice president or administrator to process the thoughts of the division nominating committee caucus concerning a leadership position of the president,” said Cooper. He shared that all 13 caucuses had come back to the nominating committee with recommendations, and the nominating committee approved them so they could brought to and voted on by the delegates.
The Euro-Asian Division caucus, and hence the GC Session nominating committee, did not bring a name to the GC Session to vote, but rather recommended to extend the term of office for the three current officers until 2022 GC Annual Council due to the unusual circumstances prevailing in the division, which is comprised of Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The delegates voted this recommendation through the block voting process, and therefore, the current president, Mikhail F. Kaminskiy, will extend his term of service to the GC Annual Council this fall.
“Privileged to Serve”
Before his 2020 election, G. Alexander (“Alex”) Bryant most recently served as executive secretary of the NAD and associate secretary of the GC, positions he’s held since October 2008 when elected at the GC Annual Council in Manila, Philippines. Bryant was reelected at the 2010 GC Session.*
Before coming to the division, Bryant served as the president of the Central States Conference in Kansas City, Kansas.
Bryant graduated with a double major in Theology and Business Administration from Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in 1981.
He began his ministry that same year in Springfield, Missouri, and Coffeyville and Independence, Kansas. In 1986, Bryant was ordained, and he continued his education by earning a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University in 1988. The Central States Conference voted Bryant to serve as Youth/Pathfinders/National Service Organization director, Temperance director, and superintendent of Education in 1990. He became president in 1997.
Bryant is the second African American elected to serve as NAD president. Charles E. Bradford, the division’s first president, was also African American. Previous division presidents include Alfred C. McClure, Don C. Schneider, and Daniel R. Jackson.
He is married to the former Desiree Wimbish, who currently serves as an associate director and ministerial spouses coordinator for the Ministerial Association in the NAD. The Bryants have three adult children and three grandchildren.
In his comments, Bryant asked for prayer as he works with the divison to seek God. He said, “And as we seek to lead this division to places God will have us go, [we want] to be able to reach the people God wants us to reach.”
“I am privileged to serve, privileged to have been elected, and also excited at this tremendous opportunity to serve the Lord,” he concluded.
*At the 2022 GC Session it was voted that the NAD secretary and treasurer will no longer serve as associate officers of the General Conference.
–Kimberly Maran is NAD associate director of communication; photo supplied
This article was originally published on NAD’s website
By Karrie Meyers – Littleton, Colorado … The Littleton Adventist Church erupted in cheers and shouts of “We know him!” during the first meeting of its annual Vacation Bible School.
Littleton’s sanctuary and other churches worldwide have been transformed into a dig site known as Jasper Canyon, with the theme that God treasures every kid. Mile High Academy students were not only attendees of Littleton’s program, but also served as volunteers. And all were excited to see a classmate and friend starring as one of the actors in the program series.
Josh is a sophomore at MHA and was offered the opportunity to be a part of the filming of Jasper Canyon. Filmed at Glacier View Ranch during very warm weather, Josh recalled how hot it was during the filming of the video, resulting in the team having to take many breaks due to the heat. When asked if reshooting scenes happened often, Josh said, “Oh yes. We had to reshoot because we kept forgetting our lines and laughing.”
Reflecting on the videos, Brad Forbes, AdventSource president, said, “Josh did a great job.” He added, “We intend to engage our kids to help us minister and spread God’s word. For Jasper Canyon, this was no exception. We had more than 110 kids helping us with the program scenes and performing in the music videos.”
The promotional video was produced by the North American Division Children’s Ministries Department and is being shown at churches and youth ministry groups around the world. Each day attendees experience Bible lessons through planned stations in the Jasper Canyon fun-filled curriculum. During the Gemstone Mine portion of the program, Josh was featured talking about his knowledge of granite and how a stone can be turned into something beautiful, like his mother’s countertop.
More than 1,000 churches purchased the English version of the Jasper Canyon kit. More than 200 Spanish-speaking churches have also purchased the program, which has been translated into a Spanish version through the use of voiceover.
“We have even sent a kit to a church in Kenya,” said Forbes. “These digital assets give us the ability to send VBS programs worldwide. And while our VBS programs typically run for one year in the United States, for other countries, it may take years to complete the translation. We are grateful for our partnership with the General Conference, providing all 14 divisions the ability to access our VBS programs for translation and use.”
Being part of a video being used at churches worldwide means a lot to Josh. “It means a lot [be]cause I get to spread the news of God around the world and share what He has done for us.”
RMCNews with Brandon Westgate – Ward, Colorado … Glacier View Ranch is expanding its facilities by beginning construction on the first new building project since 1995.
Rocky Mountain Conference administration, youth department personnel, and GVR staff assembled on June 3 for the groundbreaking ceremony on the 10-thousand square foot maintenance building, which will protect maintenance equipment from the weather. The building is part of a larger plan to protect and preserve the equipment used at GVR for maintaining the property and the road.
“This has been needed for a long time. The equipment at GVR will be preserved more effectively by having this building,” said Sam Hasty, associate director of camp ministries.
Echoing Hasty’s sentiments, Dan Hansen, GVR camp ministries director, said that putting everything away will “…add to the aesthetics of camp and make things more organized.”
Assistant youth director Jessyka Dooley said the building is “a beautiful balance between fun and the practical of what’s needed.”
Reflecting on the first construction project in nearly 30 years, Darin Gottfried, RMC vice president of finance and GVR board chair, explained that RMC members made it possible. “This is a much-needed facility for GVR. The faithfulness of the people in the RMC has made the funding for this project possible. I am continually amazed by the stewardship of the people of this conference.”
This construction is one-way RMC members are meeting the practical needs at GVR. “This building will extend the life of the tools and equipment at GVR, which will make us better managers of the resources allocated for ministry here. If we don’t have to use the funds here to replace equipment as often, then we can use those funds to further enhance the mission of RMC,” said Doug Inglish, RMC vice president of administration.
Mic Thurber, RMC president, is also grateful for the faithful giving by church members. “Our people have consistently demonstrated that they are not only interested in, but supportive of, youth ministry. This is just one more demonstration of their commitment to make sure we have the tools needed to reach our youth with the message of hope and salvation in Jesus.”
Reflecting on Thurber’s comments, Brandon Westgate, RMC youth director, said, “This is ultimately what all this is about.” He added, “As a youth department, our goal is to minister to the youngest members of our RMC family. To do that, we need a place not only to facilitate spiritual conversations but also a place that creates opportunities for young people to experience joy and fellowship while they learn what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. We are fortunate to have GVR and MSR in our conference as ministry locations whose primary purpose is to help our youth discover and develop their personal walk with Jesus.”
— RMCNews with Brandon Westgate, RMC youth director; photo by Mic Thurber
By Adventist News Network — St. Louis, Missouri … On Tuesday morning at just about 9:30 am at the 61st General Conference Session, GC Secretary Erton Köhler, accompanied by Undersecretary Hensley Moorooven, GC associate secretaries Claude Richli, Gerson Santos, Karen Porter, Gary Krause and Elbert Kuhn, alongside Director of the office of Archives, Statistics and Research (ASTR) David Trim, and VividFaith manager Fylvia Kline, presented the Secretariat Report, which celebrated the mission work executed across the global Adventist Church over the past seven years.
Presenting their report under the theme “Secretariat: Where the Heart of Mission Beats!”, Köhler began by introducing the role of the Secretariat and its associated departments, referring to them as the “Mission Family”. These include Adventist Mission, The Institute of World Mission, Adventist Volunteer Service, International Personnel Resources and Services (IPRS), ASTR, VividFaith and Adventist Membership Systems (AMS).
“We manage strategic information for mission, we coordinate processes for mission, we research how to improve the mission, and we recruit, prepare, send and care for people in mission,” Köhler said, summarizing their overall function.
Köhler further summarized the integrated purpose of these entities into a clear, three-way framework adopted throughout his presentation: Data, Mission and People. “Our main priority is to connect data and people to mission,” he said. “As the remnant Church, we are called, in these times so close to the end, to fulfill an urgent mission.”
Although coordinating mission work is the overarching purpose of the Secretariat, Köehler acknowledged that this was greatly challenged in 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with health issues, isolation and lockdowns making much of the work impossible.
“Isolation created all kinds of problems, but the Church looked for new ways to take care of people,” he said.
Joining Köhler, alongside the associate secretaries and other representatives from the Mission Family on stage, were the executive secretaries from each division, as well as Dr. G.T. Ng, retired secretary (2010-2021) and John Thomas, retired associate secretary (2010-2020). Köehler acknowledged and thanked both, as well as Matthew Bediako and G. Ralph Thompson who were not in attendance, for their leadership and contribution to this year’s Secretariat Report.
ASTR—GROWING CHURCH, OR BUREAUCRACY?
First to take the floor was David Trim, who presented a comprehensive overview of church membership and statistics over the past quinquennium, and beyond. “My part of the report is, of course, entirely data—but it is also about mission and people. Because ASTR is also a place where the heart of mission beats,” he began.
i. Accessions and deaths
Looking first at global accessions, Trim highlighted that while church accessions have generally “flourished.” 2019-2020 was the first time that membership dropped to less than one million accessions since 2004. This drop was from 1.32 million in 2018-2019, to 800,000—a decrease of more than 500,000. Nevertheless, this increased again in 2021 to again exceed one million, with 1,069,234 accessions.
While averaging more than a million accessions per year seems positive, Trim emphasized that the Adventist Church has also faced significant losses, warning that “there will be more to come, as membership audits—which we are now calling ‘membership reviews’—are implemented around the world.”
Illustrating his point on a chart showing membership changes from 2017-2021, Trim explained that a total of 5.9 million people joined the Adventist Church in that timeframe, even despite a pandemic. Nevertheless, 3.6 million people left the Church during that time frame, as well. In fact, 2019 was the first time that “living losses” (people who have left membership, are missing, or are removed during membership reviews) exceeded one million people.
“Even this has positive implications for mission,” Trim encouraged. “For in certain parts of the world, church leaders now have an accurate sense of their membership. And that means they can plan better both for outreach and for nurture and retention. And that means, in turn, that both outreach and in-reach can be done more effectively and impactfully.”
ii. Conferences, missions and unions
Narrowing his focus, Trim then shared statistics on the overall growth of conferences, missions and unions, comparing today’s statistics to 1970, for perspective. While the number of union conferences and union missions has increased by 54%—from 75 in 1970 to 138 in 2020, local conferences and missions have increased by 93%—from 379 in 1970 to 731 in 2020.
From 2015 to 2019 specifically, local conferences and missions increased by 76—or 11%, plus three new unions were added to the global Church.
Trim acknowledged that while some members may see the increase of organizational structures as evidence of the Church becoming bureaucratic, that local organizations are actually a powerful force for mission. “They provide leadership that is close to the local church and therefore responsive both to challenges and opportunities, and they also provide training, resourcing, and equipping of local church members,” he said.
iii. Other institutions—pastors versus staff
Finally, Trim shared statistics on the growth in numbers of educational and medical institutions, as well as pastors and church employees. Specifically, while church pastors have increased by 142% since 1970, church employees have increased at a slightly higher rate, at 159%. Trim again acknowledged that as the Adventist Church grows, it faces the danger of institutionalization, but that many members may overstate this fear.
“The difference in the two growth rates is relatively small across a period of 15 years which suggests that institutionalization is not currently as much of a challenge as some members and leaders may fear, though it is something we must be on guard against. It must be remembered, too, that our 75,000 teachers in schools and colleges are almost like pastors for in many places, schools drive dynamic church growth,” he said.
I WILL GO STRATEGIC PLAN & LEADERSHIP
Following on from Trim’s presentation, Hensley Moorooven took to the stage to introduce the Secretariat’s Strategic Plan for 2020-2025, which has purposely customized the I Will Go framework to focus primarily on its leadership objective, seeking to promote transparency and organizational accountability.
He then introduced seven key strategic issues addressed by this plan, including mission strategies, ISE call process, missionary care, nurture and retention, membership audit, training and evaluation, and working policy. These were then the focus of presentations by the rest of the “Mission Family” during the Secretariat Report, beginning with training and evaluation.
I. Secretariat Evaluation
Presented by Claude Richli, associate secretary and officer in charge of secretariat evaluation, a focus of the GC Secretariat’s strategic plan is to ensure that the Secretariat across the Church’s 13 divisions is performing in an optimal environment and according to adequate standards. To do this the GC conducts on-site evaluations, anonymous questionnaires where honest feedback can be given, and through a range of review processes.
“I’m deeply impressed by the level of professionalism that we have witnessed around the world,” said Richli. “I thank the approximately 1500 executive secretaries, their associates, their assistants and their administrative assistants for their commitment to mission wfor their heart truly beats for mission.”
II. Discipleship, nurture, reclaiming
Presented by Gerson Santos, associate secretary and officer in charge of nurture and retention, another focus of the GC Secretariat is to strengthen pastoral care, spiritual growth and discipleship around the world. To do this, they are committed to providing data via membership review to identify shortcomings in the discipleship process. Santos highlighted various divisions—including the South Pacific Division, Inter-American Division and South American Division—that have innovated in this area.
“He counts and recounts the flock. He leaves the 99 within the fold, and goes in search of the straying sheep. He makes every effort to find that one lost sheep. We should have in mind that numbers do matter,” Santos said. “Counting is essential; it helps to see people behind the numbers. Accurate data provides excellent performance indicators for mission efficiency and pastoral care.”
III. Missionary care
Presented by Karen Porter, associate secretary and officer in charge of missionary care and IPRS, caring for missionaries is another focus of the GC Secretariat. She shared that since the last GC Session in 2015, 528 missionaries, or a total of 367 families left their homes in 66 different countries to serve abroad as missionaries in 82 different countries.
“During the pandemic, we saw God working miracles to facilitate visas, work permits and travel arrangements in spite of the lockdowns,” she said.
A short video then played, highlighting the sacrifices made by early missionaries and encouraging church members to adopt a sacrificial mindset—whether by becoming missionaries themselves or by supporting their work abroad, financially or otherwise.
Porter also highlighted the effect that the new Mission Reset framework will have on funding the work of missionaries going forward. For more information on this, you can read our article here.
IV. Missionaries and Volunteers
The Secretariat Report then highlighted the work of missionaries and volunteers around the world, and the role of the Institute of World Mission, Adventist Volunteer Service, and VividFaith in making this possible.
First, Oscar Osindo, associate secretary and director of the Institute of World Mission, shared how the GC Secretariat has innovated a new online mission learning platform called “learnmission.org.” With lockdowns and travel restrictions preventing this training from happening in person, it has inspired and educated many missionaries and volunteers around the world.
After this, Elbert Kuhn, associate secretary and director of Adventist Volunteer Service, shared an inspiring story via video of William, a full-time volunteer who left North American to serve in the Middle East and work with refugees. “A volunteer missionary is the one that is willing to leave home to live among those who are still to find the way to the Father’s house,” commented the narrator of the video.
Finally, Fylvia Kline shared a video and information on VividFaith, a platform using innovative methods to connect organizations and institutions in need, with volunteers who want to serve either abroad, or also locally.
V. Adventist Mission
Finishing the Report, Gary Krause, associate secretary and director of Adventist Mission, shared how the GC Secretariat is focused on nurturing new groups of believers in unentered people groups and areas around the world by sending Global Mission Pioneers to work as “frontline church planters . . . among their own people and culture group … to follow Jesus’ method of ministry.”
Krause highlighted that since the last GC Session in 2015, Global Mission has planted almost 3,000 new churches in unreached communities. Specifically, a top priority of Adventist Mission is reaching people in the 10/40 Window.
“Outside the 10/40 Window we have one Adventist for every 136 people. Inside, we have one Adventist for nearly 2,000 people. You can see the challenge!” he said[MF14] .
Other challenges faced by Adventist Mission are reaching people in major cities and urban areas, as well as sharing the gospel with people from other major world religions. To combat this, Adventist Mission has established six Global Mission Centers around the world, each with a specific focus.
Krause also briefly shared Global Mission’s Total Employment Tentmaker initiative, which supports Adventists to find jobs and share the good news in challenging areas where missionaries can’t travel, as well as their new Mission Priority System, which helps Adventist Mission to strategically focus on areas where there is little to no Adventist presence.
While recruiting and supporting missionaries is one aspect, Adventist Mission’s other primary function is to inspire church members with what’s happening with their mission offerings.
“Well, this is the Secretariat report, brought to you in a unified way,” said Köhler, finishing the presentation. In wrapping up, he emphasized the need for Adventist missionaries—both locally and globally—and the need for a mission reset and refocus.
“Our heart strongly beats for a renewed missionary movement,” he said. “We rely on the inspired recommendations of Ellen White, who says that ‘Together they are to carry the work forward to completion’ (Acts of the Apostles, p 276).”
Köhler then finished by thanking the leadership of the Secretariat and Mission Family, as well as some of the executive secretaries and missionaries on stage.
You can watch the live stream of the full Secretary’s Report for the General Conference Session 2022 here.
– Angelica Sanchez contributed to this report; photo courtesy of Tor Tjeransen / Adventist Media Exchange
This article was originally published on Adventist News Network website
By Brenda Dickerson — St. Louis, Missouri … Dr. Ella Simmons, the first woman to serve as a general vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, has announced her retirement effective this month. Simmons, a former provost at La Sierra University and former vice president of academic administration at Oakwood University, was elected in 2005 to serve at the GC with responsibilities largely in the area of education.
An educator throughout her career, Simmons has also served as chair for departments of education (Kentucky State University) and as associate dean (University of Louisville).
Simmons has filled the vice president role for 17 years, providing professional leadership education and evaluation, as well as spiritual guidance, to church administrators around the world. In addition, she has chaired the Seventh-day Adventist International Board of Education, whose decisions impact over 9,000 schools serving more than 2 million students worldwide, according to the General Conference website.
Simmons acknowledges that leadership is not easy. “You’re always going to face challenges…it still always comes back to just remembering this is God’s work,” she said in a Columbia Union Visitor interview. “He has it, and He has me, and I need to keep my mind on Him in order to do what He would have me do, and to have peace while I’m doing it.”
TWO NEW VPS
Lowell Cooper, chair of the nominating committee, presented the names of seven individuals to serve as general vice presidents for the coming term. Cooper explained why the vice-presidents were being presented as a block, rather than individually.
The names include five current vice-presidents, Abnor De Los Santos, Artur Stele, Geoffrey Mbwana, Thomas Lemon and Guillermo Biaggi, and two new individuals, Audrey Andersson and Maurice Valentine. Andersson was serving as executive secretary in the Trans-European Division and Maurice Valentine, who was service as a vice-president in the North American Division.
“We would ask the session to accept the report, rather than voting on individual names…The nominating committee has discussed the matter carefully, recognizes the challenges that comes from trying to balance depth of experience with breadth of representation.”
The motion passed with more than 96 percent of the vote.
Elder Gary Thurber, president of the Mid-America Union, stated that Maurice Valentine is “a product of Central States Conference and the Mid-America Union. He served in our territory as a pastor, union ministerial director and vice president for administration, and as CSC conference president. We wish him the very best as he begins his new journey.”
Elder Roger Bernard, current president of the Central States Conference, shared some insights into this year’s Nominating Committee processes. “I am serving on the Nominating Committee for the General Conference Session for the first time, and it has been enlightening,” said Bernard. “I’ve learned how difficult it is for the nominating committee to come to consensus on those that will serve the Seventh Day Adventist church on the General Conference level of this church.”
There are 268 members on the committee, with the North America Division only having 21 representatives. “Everyone wants representation, so you can imagine how difficult of a task it is to get the right people elected. Much prayer is needed before we enter all General Conference Sessions,” Bernard added.
WHERE DOES ACCOUNTABILITY LIE FOR GC LEADERS?
The highest level of authority at each segment of denominational organization is within the constituency session. In addition, each officer is accountable to the organization’s executive committee. An executive committee (or board, in the case of institutions) is entrusted through policies or constitutions and bylaws with authority to govern between constituency meetings. However, the executive committee/board members are ultimately accountable to their constituency. We have checks and balances in place in the constitution to help keep erratic leaders from hijacking the church.
SHAPING THE ADVENTIST CHURCH
“Today, with more people operating across the globe, the Adventist Church’s decisions must be made with increasing care for the massive spectrum of humanity they serve,” said Caleb Eisele in a recent article (Gleaner, May/June 2022). “Policies, leadership and decision-making bodies are a vital part of that process in our modern-day, and they remain an important way a local church member can participate in shaping the Seventh-day Adventist Church for future generations.”
Members who desire to change the church for the better can volunteer to serve on their local church board, conference executive committee or the bylaws committee. These are the most powerful decision-making groups and the most effective means of creating change processes in Adventism.
“I firmly believe the Holy Spirit is leading, and that gives us hope for the future of the Adventist Church, in spite of our shortcomings as human beings,” said Gary Thurber, president of the Mid-America Union Conference. “Right now we all need to be praying for God’s guidance at all levels of the church as we continue to focus on our mission of sharing the good news that Jesus Christ offers hope and healing to everyone.”
QUICK QUESTIONS ANSWERED ABOUT GC SESSION 2022
Why St. Louis?
America’s Center is conveniently located in the heart of downtown St. Louis, close to hotels, dining and public transportation. The city has an international airport and can comfortably house the large number of delegates. The 58th session was also held in St. Louis in 2005, and the 62nd session in 2025 is scheduled again for St. Louis. Only a handful of cities have the facilities to host the GC session.
What’s different this year?
In addition to accommodating virtual participation by delegates, there are no ancillary meetings or exhibits or booths. There is, however, a virtual exhibition hall. “The exhibition hall will be open 24/7 of course, but there will only be presentations and webinars in the booths in between sessions, during meals and throughout the night,” Sharon Aka, GC Virtual Events and Adventist Collective Consultant, explains. “During Sabbath hours, the virtual exhibition experience will be available for attendees. Sales of goods will not be available during Sabbath hours”.
According to Aka, there are more than 150 booths scheduled for the virtual exhibition. Each may have from 2-10 presentations, most being about 15-20 minutes. “We’re looking at potentially 500-750 presentations during the event over the course of six days,” said Aka. “So there’ll be no shortage of content for people to enjoy!” There will also be a poster hall to present academic research and innovation.
The 66,000-seat stadium (America’s Center Convention Complex) is open to the public during the business meetings and on Sabbath. However, due to the pandemic and the change of location from Indianapolis to St. Louis, many of the community service activities and evangelistic events that usually accompany a GC session are not happening in 2022.
Due to time zone differences that will make Friday in the U.S. actually Sabbath in some countries, the business sessions will conclude on Thursday, allowing four days for business this year instead of seven or eight as in years past.
Monday, June 6th, 2022 marks the commencement of the first hybrid General Conference (GC) Session in St. Louis, Missouri. The day began with opening remarks from Adventist World Church President Ted Wilson, Secretary Erton Kohler, and Treasurer Paul Douglas.
During the morning’s opening worship, Director of Ministerial Association Jerry Page led with prayer and introduced evangelist Mark Finley, Chaplain of the United States Senate Barry Black, and Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Dwight Nelson, each shared messages under the worship theme of “Seeking the Holy Spirit Together in Prayer, Music and the Word”. There were also several moments for partnered and group prayer during morning worship.
Wilson provided a comprehensive summary of significant events of the World Church since the last GC Session in his President’s Report. He urged delegates to participate prayerfully through voice and vote as their responsibility is a sacred one. Those in attendance, both in person and online, also witnessed and celebrated the baptism of Philippine Army Colonel, Eric Guevarra, and his wife, Leah.
The world church also welcomed 10 new unions into the Sisterhood of Unions in Zimbabwe, Belize, Ghana, Netherlands, Malaysia, and Ethiopia.
The morning business meeting was chaired by Vice-President of the General Conference, Arthur Stele. Secretary of the GC Erton Köhler led opening procedures, making note that the executive committee was in harmony with the GC Constitution (item 102). He also led the reading of the Mission Statement (item 104) and Undersecretary of the GC Hensley Moorooven provided a brief orientation for session delegates highlighting the ethical expectations, responsibilities, and session protocols.
The following motions were voted as approved during the morning session:
To adopt the GC Rules of Order as a guide for the 61st GC Sessions (item 103).
To approve Associate General Counsel of the GC Todd MacFarland as parliamentarian for business meetings of the 61st GC Session.
To limit the time of delegate speeches due to time constraints of the Session.
To adopt the daily program (item 105) and Session agendas (item 106) of 61st GC Session.
To adopt both the Steering and Standing Committees (item 107-108).
To accept the nominating committee list (item 109).
To accept the 10 new and reorganized unions (items 111-116), making these unions official members of the Sisterhood of Unions and the GC, providing them the right to participate in the GC Session.
The subject of vaccination was brought up by delegate Jonathan Zirkle who requested to have the Church revisit its statement on vaccines as part of the GC Session agenda. No second was given. Stele encouraged leaving this point out of the agenda due to limited time. Motion was seconded and approved by common consent.
Grace Mackintosh from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada provided a second via Zoom for Zirkle’s request to appeal the discussion of the church’s stance on the Covid-19 vaccine. Elder Wilson urged delegates to stand united in refusing to put this issue on the agenda as it is not a constitution and bylaws issue, not a church manual issue, or a fundamental belief item. Wilson also reminded delegates that the Church’s stance is that individuals have the right to choose for themselves.
Vote was held to stop discussion and resume after lunch.
1581 voted yes (84.5%); 291 voted no (15.5%).
Vote was held to add the issue of vaccination to the 61st GC Session agenda.
General Vice-President of the GC Ella Simmons chaired the afternoon’s business session, where the following agenda items were addressed:
Associate Secretary of the GC Karen Porter moved:
To recognize and record the dissolution of the former Trans-Caucasus Union of Churches Mission in the Euro-Asia Division, effective January 1, 2021 (item 117).
1626 voted yes (99.6%); 7 voted no (0.4%).
Undersecretary of the GC Hensley Moorooven moved the following amendments to the GC Constitution and Bylaws regarding the following topics:
Phrasing and Language Edits:
To approve three editorial amendments of GC Constitution and Bylaws (items 201, 202, and 203).
Election (item 201) – to include the phrase“General Conference Executive Committee” instead of “Executive Committee”.
To alphabetize names of departments (item 202).
To use the phrase “electronic conference” rather than “telephone conference” (item 203).
1544 voted yes (98.9%); 17 voted no (1.1%).
To approve the editorial amendments of GC Bylaws, Article IV – GC Undersecretary and Associate Secretaries (item 204) and Article V – GC Under Treasurer and Associate Treasurers (item 205).
1563 voted yes (97.4%); 41 voted no (2.6%).
Language voted “Authorized Speakers—Only speakers worthy of confidence will be invited to the pulpit by the local church pastor, in harmony with guidelines given by the conference.* The local elders or church board may also invite speakers, in consultation with the pastor, and in harmony with conference guidelines. Individuals who are no longer members, or who are under discipline, should not be given access to the pulpit.”
To approve the editorial amendments of GC Constitution and Bylaws, Constitution Article VIII—GC Executive Committee (item 206).
Simmons asked that this item, along with delegate discussion and comments be taken back for review and revision.
Mooroven agreed to set a time for the Constitution and Bylaws Committee to meet and review this agenda item.
Associate Secretary of the GC Gerson Santos moved the following amendments to the Church Manual regarding the following topics:
Church Services and Meetings Edits:
To amend chapter 10 regarding Unauthorized Speakers (item 401) to clarify who may be invited to speak in the church and address the confusion caused by the implication that a layperson can not preach because they do not hold credentials.
1336 voted yes (90.7%); 137 voted no (9.3%)
To amend chapter 8 regarding the confusing term “union school board,” replacing it with “multi-constituent school board” (item 402).
1502 voted yes (99.4%); 9 votes no (0.6%).
To replace the phrase “baptismal ceremony” with “baptismal service” to make terminology more consistent throughout the Church Manual (item 403).
1478 voted yes (97.9%); 32 voted no (2.1%).
To amend chapter 10, allowing church board members to participate electronically in church board meetings (item 404).
By Adventist News Network — St. Louis, Missouri … During the final minutes of the business session on Monday, June 6, the Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted to re-elect Ted N.C. Wilson as president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church. This will be Wilson’s third term.
Ted N.C. Wilson has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a variety of roles throughout his nearly 50 years of ministry. He began as a pastor in the Greater New York Conference in 1974, and quickly moved into administrative and foreign service roles.
Wilson holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Religious Education from New York University; a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University; and a Master of Science degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University. As president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, this education has served him well as he visits schools, hospitals and various church organizations around the world.
While attending Loma Linda, Wilson met his future wife, Nancy, a physical therapist, and together they raised three daughters, Emilie, Elizabeth, and Catherine, while working for the Church in New York; West Africa; Russia; and Maryland. His administrative experience led the Church in business session to elect him as a General Conference vice president in 2000—a position he held until 2010 when he was elected president.
During the past 12 years of Wilson’s leadership, the Church has adopted ministry initiatives rooted in personal revival and corporate reformation. The Total Membership Involvement (TMI) initiative, a full-scale evangelistic thrust spearheaded in 2016, sparked mission efforts around the world involving every member, every church, in personal and corporate outreach. This has resulted in thousands of people embracing the gospel through the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s understanding of the three angels’ messages.
Under Wilson’s watch, the Church’s strategic plans have focused on church members reaching the world, and inspiring and equipping them to use their God-given spiritual gifts in witness and service for Christ. The current strategic plan, “Reach the World: I Will Go,” outlines specific suggested goals to meet in the Church’s mission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, 20).
Wilson, along with fellow officers and church leaders helped lead the church through extremely challenging times, especially during the novel coronavirus pandemic that plunged the world into chaos. Leaders were forced to make difficult decisions to best meet the changing needs of the World Church. These included reducing and eliminating staff travel, establishing public health protocols for employees, reassessing finances and budgets, postponing General Conference Session, promoting virtual meetings, and more. Throughout this ordeal, Wilson has been a reassuring presence with his encouraging weekly videos to the Church, pointing members to Jesus.
That seems to be the overarching theme for Wilson’s life and ministry. As he so succinctly stated in a brief life sketch: “You don’t need to know what the General Conference is or who the president is. All you need to do is know the Lord, attend your local church, be involved in mission, be in relationships, and love people—telling them about God’s love and Christ’s soon coming.”[i]
The Wilsons covet member’s prayers as they continue in their leadership roles within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
This article was originally published on ANN website; photo courtesy of Outlook Magazine
By Rajmund Dabrowski – Denver, Colorado … Following 24 years as an educator in Rocky Mountain Conference, and 18 years as a teacher, and seven as a teaching principal at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado, Sandy Hodgson is moving to a new position as RMC assistant director of education.
“As we look to the future of RMC education, we are blessed to bring Sandy Hodgson’s 24 years of experience to broaden our teacher support. As we increase our professional development opportunities and bring added resources to our small schools, I know that Sandy will be a blessing to our teachers, said Diane Harris, RMC superintendent of education.
Sandy appreciates the invitation to serve in a broader education field. Commenting for NewsNuggets, she explained that as educators, “we are compelled to see our students grow into their God-given ability to become thinking and responsible individuals, and we are challenged to help them to be who they already are.” She pointed out that creativity in education is an element that helps students remember what education brings to their young lives, and it helps them to be creative, too.
Years as a missionary abroad in Italy and Germany with her husband, Greg, have helped her illustrate her teaching, recognizing the diversity and richness of culture and history.
“We are educating kids in so many ways, but the kids are also educating us,” she said.
Among the lessons she acquired from her teaching career is resilience. She recognizes the many differences students represent in their home situations and cultures. Especially during the pandemic, the resilience of the children through difficult times was coming through. It was a learning experience for her to see that “there was an innocence lost, but there’s still a little bit of it and [what you see] is the resilience. There is still that spark of laughter, the sparkle in their eyes. You could see the smiles [even] when we wore masks all the time. You could see the smile in their eyes, and you knew there were things that had brought them joy.”
Hodgson recognizes that the pace of her work will change; she is grateful for the lessons gained in her years in the classrooms that will come with her to the new position within RMC education as she joins the department on July 1.
Harris added that “Sandy has exemplified a commitment to our CHERISH core values and has many years of experience as a teaching principal. Her creativity and experience will be an asset to all of our teachers.”
As she explained her philosophy of education, Sandy could not but refer to the core values which are enshrined in the acronym CHERISH, a foundation for education–– Christ-centered, honor, exploration, responsibility, integrity, service, and heroism all encapsulate her philosophy.
“Obviously, you want the outcomes to be the product of your mission. Don’t we want citizens that are going to take care of each other, that is going to respect and honor each other, that are going to save the planet [through] all those little things? What can they do to make this world a better place?
“Jesus is coming soon, but at the same time, we hold fast, and we keep working until then. We keep building; as RMC president Mic Thurber often emphasizes, “You keep working as though it could last lifetimes and lifetimes. We must be good stewards of the planet.”
“We must also be good stewards of our money. We must be good stewards of our mind and our body. I guess for me, even though I want Jesus to come soon, and I want us to all go to heaven if it lasts another generation and another generation, we need to be prepared to take care of this earth and the people that are on it,” she explained.
Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and the editor of NewsNuggets. Photo by Rajmund Dabrowski
By Jon Roberts – Denver, Colorado … Lead pastors from Rocky Mountain Conference churches with multiple pastors gathered in Denver during the month of May for training on successfully managing a multi-staff church and overcoming unique obstacles.
The training, which is the first of specific group training planned for pastors in RMC, was facilitated by Dave Ferguson, lead pastor at the Collegedale Adventist Church. The extensive workshop, held over two days, covered a broad range of topics, including how to improve team communication and clarity, generate team alignment and engagement, build team trust and unity, foster team caring and inclusivity, resolve conflict in a manner that preserves and enhances the team, and network with colleagues who pastor in a similar context.
Reflecting on how necessary the training is to the pastors, Ferguson said, “I think the role of a lead pastor with a multi-pastor staff is just different than if you are solo pastor leading a congregation or district and they can create textures of the job that don’t get discussed much.”
He added, “to have comradery, to be able to talk about what you’re dealing with, to be able to reflect well with people who are walking down similar kinds of roads, it’s a unique opportunity to deal with the issues that you face that are different than when you go to a normal set of pastor’s meetings.”
The training also gave pastors the opportunity to fellowship and share best practices with each other.
“There are certain things [with a multi-pastor staff] that you have to address and deal with that are unique. It gives the opportunity for that kind of support and help to know that you’re not alone. Um, and to grow in areas that aren’t often addressed, said Ferguson.
For Jamey Houghton, Franktown Adventist Church lead pastor, learning from Ferguson, a veteran pastor, was especially worthwhile.
“I would say probably learning from guys who’ve been doing it longer than I have been. Dave’s been doing this quite a bit longer than all of us. Learning from his experience is very valuable.”
Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director, hopes pastors are able to understand “that their greatest contribution comes from adding value to their team members.”
Mallory says that future small-group pastor training will be held among pastors that have multi churches and pastors who are the only pastor at one church. He added that he hopes pastors will be able to address issues that can’t be addressed in larger settings.
–Jon Roberts is RMC communication/media assistant; photos by Jon Roberts
By AdventHealth — Oleg Kostyuk, a religious studies professor at AdventHealth University, told the story of encountering a woman on Ukraine’s border with Romania. She had fled Odessa, her life packed into two carry-on suitcases. The thing she would miss most, she told him, was not her home but rather the ability to visit the graves of her husband and son. Kostyuk and his wife, Julia, a family nurse practitioner, visited AdventHealth’s Global Missions office in Altamonte Springs, Florida, recently to share the hope – and heartbreak – they experienced during their six-day visit to their war-torn homeland to deliver “seven huge suitcases” of medicines and supplies.
“The war brings the best and the worst in humanity,” Oleg said. “We saw many people where the best was shining through in them. People are filled with love, joy, in spite of everything, and hope in peace.”
The Kostyuks’ efforts are among a growing list of those that have taken place since the war began in February. As the war has continued so has AdventHealth’s ongoing support of the relief efforts in Ukraine. So far, more than 2,200 people have contributed over $230,000 via payroll donations from AdventHealth team members and through the Global Missions website. Team member donations helped buy and equip three vans for use as mobile clinics in March. Global Missions continues to put funds raised to work helping cover the cost of medications and other needed medical supplies.
Donations also have allowed AdventHealth to provide direct relief to refugees for food and other necessities, working through partners on the ground in Ukraine.
“AdventHealth is not a disaster-response organization and yet when things like this happen, we get involved,” said Monty Jacobs, director of Global Missions. “When I got word that Julia and Oleg were going to be traveling to Ukraine and that they needed medications, it was a real easy decision to be able to say, ‘Hey, is there any way we can help?’ And let’s help source some of those medications that are so desperately needed.”
Others who have sought support from Global Missions to aid in their humanitarian missions to Ukraine include:
Central Florida Rabbi Steven Engel from the Congregation of Reform Judaism, along with other rabbis from around the globe, traveled to Poland, where the group delivered much-needed medications – including antibiotics, medicines for diabetes and depression, vitamins and children’s medications – to the Jewish Community Center on the Ukraine-Poland border.
A group of Central Florida pastors left recently to deliver medications to Angelia Clinic. A part of the Seventh-day Adventist health network, the clinic has split operations between its original location in Kyiv and the western city of Chernivtsi.
Erika Havelka is an emergency medicine physician who, as part of her group, works with AdventHealth’s Great Lakes Region hospitals. Dr. Havelka helped facilitate the collection and shipment of donated medicines and supplies for a global response group she’s long been involved with, the Interstate Disaster Medical Collaborative. The medications, along with some hazmat suits that were no longer being used, were intended for Ukraine hospitals where IDMC partners are working.
Leo Ostapovich, a hospitalist for AdventHealth Hendersonville and a native of Ukraine with his own refugee experience, said he felt compelled to go to Ukraine shortly after the war started. When he informed others of his intention, he found support through AdventHealth’s Mission Trip Scholarship program.
“Since we have this resource, I was able to get this scholarship opportunity to Leo and help provide monetary funds to help him travel to Ukraine,” said Carissa Frank, clinical mission integration manager of physician services. “Additionally, I worked with our administration, materials management department and pharmacy to approve and donate medical supplies and medicine to the Ukrainian refugees and local hospitals.”
On Saturday, May 21, AdventHealth team members joined other Celebration-area churches and community volunteers at a food-packing event at AdventHealth Celebration’s Nicholson Center. That day’s effort will provide 200,000 meals for Ukrainian refugees.
In addition to supporting relief efforts in Ukraine, the Global Missions team has longstanding working “footprints” in 12 countries – the latest of which is Paraguay – as well as its continuing support of the heroic work the Angelia Clinic in Ukraine is doing to provide free care to all who are in need of its life-sustaining services.
“We expect to be involved in helping Ukraine for a long period of time,” said Jacobs.
Perhaps the most poignant reminder can be found in the words of Julia Kostyuk: “Even if we’re an ocean away, we can make a difference. We can help save lives.”
To view the video of Leo Ostapovich’s conversation with Victoria Dunkle, director of communications for AdventHealth Hendersonville, click here.
To find out more about AdventHealth Global Missions and to donate to ongoing relief efforts in Ukraine, click here.
–AdventHealth; photos supplied
This article was originally published on AdventHealth’s website