Church membership hits 600,000

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Baptism at Navosa Highlands, Western Fiji.

Membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific has now exceeded 600,000, largely driven by a significant jump in the number of members in the Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM).

According to the South Pacific Division (SPD) Statistics Report presented to the Division Executive Committee last week, membership in 2020 was 609,868, compared to 567,139 in 2019. Significantly, the Church’s growth rate was 7.85 per cent, the highest it has been in the past 10 years.

In 2020 the overall number of baptisms/professions of faith was 57,947, of which 48,622 were in PNGUM. Membership losses totalled 15,596. A calculation of gains to losses reveals that for every 3.7 people who joined the Church, one left.

According to the report, there’s a significant difference in the number of Adventists in the populations of the union missions compared to the union conferences. In the Trans Pacific Union Mission (TPUM) there is one church member per 18 citizens, in PNGUM one per 19 citizens, whereas in the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) it’s 1:261 and in the Australian Union Conference (AUC) 1:407.

There is also a noticeable disparity in the number of members per pastor: 496 members per pastor in PNGUM, 414 in TPUM, 236 in NZPUC and 166 in the AUC. Tithe per capita was: $A1423 AUC, $988 NZPUC, $108 TPUM and $58 PNGUM.

In 2020 there were 14,075 denominational employees across the Division, including 3937 teachers and 1584 pastoral/ministerial employees.

“It’s really exciting to see the growth in membership in 2020, particularly in such a challenging year impacted by the pandemic,” SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend said.

“What we do know is that the disciple-making methods of Discovery Bible Reading and World Changer Bibles being used in Papua New Guinea and the Trans Pacific are really working, and that’s great to see.  During the pandemic last year they were able to meet in small groups to read the Bible and listen to each other and what God was saying—the increased involvement and relationship connection led to this growth.

“In Australia and New Zealand it continues to be a challenge to reach people—however the reach by electronic media of streamed worship services and the impact of Hope Channel in NZ and Faith FM in Australia grew significantly. These countries are very secular and most people are not interested in the Bible but the seed of the gospel has been sown.”