Conferences and union begin historic ‘transformation journey’

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In an historic agreement, all nine of the Australian conferences and the Australian Union Conference (AUC) have united together with the aim of transforming the Church, advancing the Church’s mission and exploring potential changes in its entity and governance structures.

Never before have the AUC and all of the conferences formally agreed to work so closely together, uniting the Australian Church’s membership and employees in a process of change.

Between February and April 2018, AUC officers and members of the AUC’s Structure Review Team visited each of the Conference Executive Committees, the representative bodies of the Church’s membership in each of the regions around the country.

Each Executive Committee was presented with the report that the AUC’s Structure Review Committee had developed as a result of an extensive consultation process across Australia in the last half of 2017.

The conferences were invited to join with the AUC on a “journey of transformation” that will develop ways the Church can improve its impact and adopt new methods to help it grow in Australia. All of the Conference Executive Committees, on behalf of their members, accepted the challenge.

"The review is clearly not just about structural reform. It is dealing with the broader issues that confront the Adventist Church in Australia . . ."

In a joint statement, the presidents of the nine conferences said: “. . . it is a privilege to be a part of this exciting process. What we are committed to and now want to see is real action and change that the Holy Spirit leads us into, in order that the Seventh-day Adventist Church will be a thriving disciple-making movement across this great nation.”

David Swain, a lay member of the Greater Sydney Conference Executive Committee, said, “The review is clearly not just about structural reform. It is dealing with the broader issues that confront the Adventist Church in Australia and, especially where it really counts, the local church. It certainly has the potential to transform the Church and its mission.”

And “transforming the Church” is exactly what many members and ministers across Australia are looking for. In a survey conducted by the Structure Review Team, 98 per cent of ministers and 96 per cent of lay members (primarily head elders) across the country are seeking either moderate or transformational change (see graphic below).

“Some of the ideas that have been presented are very exciting. This provides an excellent opportunity for us to explore new and innovative ways of engaging every church member and reaching out into our communities,” said Leanne Newick, a lay member from the South New South Wales Conference Executive Committee.

Action planning is already underway with ideas being formalised to impact local churches, schools, aged care facilities, conferences and the AUC.

At local church level, the process will address key questions such as, How can we better integrate our churches and schools for mission? How can our local churches be more effective at both outreach and in-reach?

The process will also trial the idea of a so-called “district/network model”, where multiple churches, an Adventist school, an aged care facility and ADRA all work in a more cohesive and integrated way for mission.

The administrative branches of the Church will consider how they can streamline their operations and provide additional value and resources to local churches.

Some significant governance issues will also be addressed. The process will explore a single Adventist education system and a single aged care system in Australia. There are currently nine education entities operating across the country.

Working groups will identify “potential models” of what each of the single systems might look like in practice and an extensive process of consultation across all of the conferences is planned for the last half of 2018.

A summary of the first phase of the AUC’s Church Structure Report is available for all church members to read at https://corporate.adventist.org.au/australian-church-structure-review/.

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