Year-end meetings highlight growth and challenges

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Crucial discussions were held and decisions made as almost 100 delegates of the South Pacific Division (SPD) Executive gathered in Wahroonga, New South Wales, for end-of-year meetings this week (November 15–16).

The two-day meetings began with worship, the first being led by General Conference (GC) president Dr Ted Wilson, who spoke about the latter rain described by the prophet Joel. He discussed the importance of personal revival and preparation for Jesus’ return.

“Everything we proclaim and preach is centred in Christ and the centre of the doctrines is Jesus Himself,” he said. “He has given us so much truth. Let’s be grounded in Him. After the shaking will come unity . . . Connect with the Lord every day and allow Him to revive us.”

SPD youth leader Dr Nick Kross in full Pathfinder dress uniform (left) joins SPD flag co-presidents Dean Tichborne and Nick Coyte on either side of GC president Dr Ted Wilson.

A highlight for many was the “opening ceremony”, where delegates representing each nation of the SPD raised their flags outside the Wahroonga office. Children from Wahroonga Adventist School sang the Australian national anthem and a trumpet played as the flags were raised. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries (ATSIM) director for South Australia, Pastor John Beck, who played the didgeridoo and presented Pastor Wilson with a welcome gift (a special tie marked with indigenous Australian patterns), officially started the meetings with a “welcome to country”.

ATSIM pastor John Beck plays the didgeridoo as part of the “welcome to country”.

One of the significant matters discussed during the end-of-year meetings was a statement on transgenderism released by the GC in April. Delegates voted to receive the statement but not to approve it until further consultation with health professionals has been made in order to refine some of the language.

Also, after two years of dialogue and various options a new vision statement was voted for the SPD: “A thriving Adventist movement, living our hope in Jesus and transforming the Pacific”.

“Vision is given by God, it is His preferred future,” said SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend. “So we see ourselves corporately becoming ‘A thriving Adventist movement’, individually we will ‘live our hope in Jesus’ and our desire is to see our communities in the ‘Pacific transformed’. This will become more visible as well as a registered tagline ‘Designed to Thrive’. ‘Designed to Thrive’ can be used on all resources and events. It reflects that Jesus created us to live an abundant life.”

All the SPD institutions presented their annual reports, as did the top-tier ministries such as Mission to the Cities, Comprehensive Health, Media and Discipleship.

“People have been amazed at what has been happening through our strategies and ministries,” said Pastor Townend. “It has been really positive. It has been a good day but there’s a whole lot of work for me as we implement the suggestions and ideas that people have given to us as we’ve dialogued together.”

Three SPD church territories received changes of status. Nauru, Pitcairn and Niue all have one Adventist congregation each and are directly administered by their respective unions. They will now be known as “field stations” in keeping with new terminology being used by the Church worldwide.

Significant appointments include returning Adventist Media CEO Kalvin Dever to his position and appointing Jonathan Hale as the new Risk Management Services manager. Mr Hale was assistant manager and will be taking over from Paul Rubessa, who is moving to lead ADRA Australia.

The Biblical Research Committee presented twice over the two days, explaining to delegates the importance of hermeneutic (ways of interpreting and understanding) methods. Dr David Tasker presented on biblical understanding and interpretation and Dr John Skrzypaszek spoke about interpreting Ellen White’s writings. The SPD is keen for Adventist Church members to build their personal Bible study on good rules of understanding and interpretation. Adventist Record intends to run the presentations as articles early next year.

Other highlights included the CFOs’ and secretaries’ reports, with some very good news, but also some challenges presented. Membership has grown in all four unions; however, in some areas 60 per cent of those baptised have left the Church. Three of the unions reached membership milestones, with the Australian Union hitting 60,000 members, New Zealand Pacific Union 20,000 and Papua New Guinea Union 300,000.

“There were lots of questions and good discussion from the delegates,” said Pastor Townend. “We stopped a number of times for prayer. All in all it was a really good spirit.”