Changing of the guard

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Right now the Adventist Church in the South Pacific is facing a significant shift in leadership. If you’re a regular Record reader, you’ll know we already have a new South Pacific Division (SPD) president, Glenn Townend. One of the implications of this, however, is that his previous position, the presidency of the Trans-Pacific Union Mission, is now vacant. 

Change happens. The alternative is rigor mortis. We’ve got to learn to accept it, understand it and get the most out of it.

As well as this, two of our other Union presidents are finishing up in their roles: Chester Stanley is retiring from the Australian Union Conference and Leigh Rice is returning from the Papua New Guinea Union Mission. It’s probably also worth mentioning that Leon Clark is retiring from his position as CEO of Sydney Adventist Hospital and Neale Schofield has announced he’s leaving his position as CEO of Adventist Media. 

So what? you may well ask. These people and institutions are so far from my everyday experience as to be irrelevant. Yeah, I get that. But consider the trickle-down effect. Guess who’s going to be in the frame to replace these Union leaders? Your local conference or mission president perhaps. And when your conference or mission office then needs to reconfigure its leadership arrangements, your local pastor or Adventist school principal may well be considered as a worthy addition to the team. Add to this the usual spate of appointments, retirements and transfers and you’ve got a maelstrom of change that’s bound to affect you in one way or another.

Change happens. The alternative is rigor mortis. We’ve got to learn to accept it, understand it and get the most out of it. Yes, there’s a risk that successful programs will somehow fall between the cracks, now that their champion has moved on. But there are also opportunities for reinvigoration. 

The new guard is likely to be younger than their predecessors, with fresh insights, innovative plans and the energy to see them through. I find that exciting. And after a century or so of seeing mostly Australians in senior roles around the South Pacific, we now have the chance to consider which local leaders are ready to take up leadership in their own territories.

Church leaders are often gifted and inspiring. But they are just people in need of the same love, respect and friendship as the rest of us. As we witness the changing of the guard, let’s pray for our leaders and offer the guidance and support they’ll need as they serve us and God.


Kent Kingston is an assistant editor for Adventist Record.