Since Luke documented the organisation of the early church, structure and organisation have been the topic of interest and debate. Adventist pioneers avoided formal organisation for as long as possible. However, in response to the rapidly growing Advent movement and the sheer logistics of managing mission, personnel and finances, the Church eventually organised in 1863. Since that time the structure has matured and been adapted.
What is the Australian Union (AUC) and why do we need it? If we step back, the role of the local conference is to advance the Church’s mission in its territory by providing spiritual leadership and raising up churches. Over time ministries and institutions such as schools and aged care institutions have been developed to enhance mission. The constituents of conferences are local churches. The AUC is a constituent of the General Conference (GC), and the AUC’s constituents are conferences. Essentially, as constituents of the GC, the Union is the basic building block of the world Church. So where does the Division fit into Church structure? The Division is not a constituent entity; rather, it is a branch office of the GC, carrying out work of the GC in its region.
The role of the AUC is to strengthen the mission and the work of the conferences. What does this mean? The Union has a role to foster missional alignment amongst the conferences and undertake ministries that are best done together rather than separately. Faith FM is a prime example of this—other examples include Mamarapha College and the Ministry Development process, to name a few. The AUC also provides support, counsel, training and mentoring for local conference leaders.
In many ways, the role of the Union is not to be highly visible in the life of the local church. Rather, it is there to facilitate mission and to resource and support the work of the local conferences.
Pastor Michael Worker is general secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia.