For the first time, the end-of-year South Pacific Division (SPD) executive meetings, held this week (November 14 to 17), were paperless.
While there were a few teething problems, everyone was able to access the agenda, the reports and all of the background information on their laptop, tablet or smart phone, saving reams of paper in the process.
“We wanted to save the forests and be better stewards of God’s creation,” said SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend.
The experiment was successful, with only one delegate unable to access the software program Convene. The program also allowed secret voting and document security.
Another new initiative applied to the meetings was an open question forum— an hour set aside where delegates could raise issues of concern to the Church that were not on the agenda. Questions raised included youth retention rates, the Gracelink children’s Sabbath school curriculum and SPD branding.
“The meetings moved quickly,” said Pastor Townend. “Even on points of disagreement, there was a clear focus that we wanted to get on with God’s business of making more and better disciples. And the reports reflected that too.”
Reports were presented by the secretary and CFO, along with all the Division entities, including Avondale College, Pacific Adventist University, Adventist Health Food, Adventist HealthCare and Adventist Media.
"Even on points of disagreement, there was a clear focus that we wanted to get on with God’s business of making more and better disciples."
“They were very focused on how God was changing people’s lives,” said Pastor Townend.
The secretary’s report, presented by Pastor Lionel Smith, highlighted that the SPD’s rate of apostasy is higher than the world average. Papua New Guinea Union Mission is particularly concerning, while Australia and the Trans Pacific Union Mission (TPUM) fare slightly better.
The highlight of the CFO’s report, presented by Rodney Brady, was that tithe has risen by almost 8 per cent across the Division.
The Executive voted to make American Samoa an attached field of the TPUM. There has been some desire for this to happen from American Samoa for a few years. It had been part of the Samoas-Tokelau Mission.
It was also decided to rename the North-East Papua Mission (PNG), the Northern and Milne Bay Mission.
Final amendments were made to the South Pacific edition of the Church Manual, which includes regional and cultural specific issues. It will be available in early 2017.
The other main changes were regarding personnel. Kelvin Peuser, the longest-serving associate CFO in SPD history, is leaving his role after 16 years to become vice-president of finance and infrastructure at Avondale College of Higher Education.
“I have really admired the thoroughness he has applied to the things he is responsible for to make sure he makes the right decisions,” Mr Brady said. “He is very patient and hangs in there on some really tough assignments he has been given. He is mission-minded and delights in serving the Church to see the Church is making the best use of its resources.
“He has been a good mentor to others and is leaving a legacy at SPD that probably only those who work close to him would appreciate or understand,” continued Mr Brady. “One stand-out experience for me in recent times was a business professional who he worked with on a project. The person told me he was surprised the way Kelvin started meetings with prayer and noted his sincerity, commitment and the ethical way he did business. That person and his family as a result started re-evaluating their life, priorities, started volunteering at the hospital and attending their own church again.”
A special prayer and vote of thanks were given by the Executive to recognise Mr Peuser’s service.
Taking his place is current Australian Union Conference CFO Francois Keet. Mr Keet spent five years in TPUM prior to his role at AUC. Before that he was at Avondale College filling the role Mr Peuser is moving to. He has also worked for GCAST as an auditor and in South Africa as a banker.
“Francois has a very wide background in the Church and outside the Church in financial matters, seeing things from a number of different angles,” Pastor Townend said. “He has a great capacity for work and for training and developing people. I am looking forward to working with him again, as I did for two years at TPUM.”
Dr David McClintock is leaving his role as SPD associate education director to become principal at Avondale High School. He will not be replaced for the remainder of the five-year period. Instead, funds will be made available for an associate education director at TPUM and also for cross-union professional development. Adventist teachers and principals will be able to travel and share ideas and expertise with their colleagues in other countries, to observe their systems and see how they work.