I got a call a few days ago from a reporter asking about “the rapid proliferation of small immigrant start-up congregations and the larger established churches”. In principle she was asking how the church is structured in relation to worship space. It got me thinking, how big is the Seventh-day Adventist Church? How is the Adventist church governed? How does a church member (you) fit in the Seventh-day Adventist Church structure?
Let me begin with the big picture, you as a member belong to a larger church family, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has 19,126,447 members worldwide, worshipping in about 81,551 churches and 69,909 smaller congregations called companies.[i]
This is a global organization. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is made up of five organizational levels. The local church where you belong forms the foundation and is the most important part of this worldwide church. It is estimated that a new church is planted somewhere in the world every 3.5 hours.[i] The collection of local churches form a Conference. Minnesota Conference has 73 churches, 14 companies, 12 groups and 11 schools with about 9,700 members.[ii] A collection of conferences form the next level called a Union, our Conference belongs to Mid-America Union Conference, and there are six conferences in our Union: Central States, Kansas-Nebraska, Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa-Missouri, and the Rocky Mountain Conference. The Mid-America Union Conference belongs to the next level called a Division – the North American Division which comprises nine Unions. There are 13 Divisions that form the World Church called the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church operates under a representative form of church government.[iii] The power is vested in representative bodies that govern the church with delegated authority. The leaders at all levels are elected through a democratic process. At the local church level, a nominating committee nominates leaders, who are then elected by the church in business session every year.[iv] The Conference officers are elected using the same process. A nominating committee nominates the officers and makes recommendation to the constituency session, which is the Conference in business session. The session delegates elect the officers every four years. The Minnesota Conference session was held on Sunday, May 15th, 2016.[v] (This was the 2nd Quadrennial and 108th Regular Constituency Session.) There were 413 regular delegates of which 367 voting delegates were present at the May 15th session. The delegates voted to elect officers: Justin Lyons as President, and Brian Mungandi as Vice President for Administration to a four-year term. The next level of the church, called the Union, will have its session in September. The Union session will use the same process, the delegates selected from the six conferences will gather in one place to elect the officers to a five-year term. The General Conference/Division officers were elected by the delegates selected from all the 13 Divisions at the last 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio, TX, in 2015. The world church used the same democratic process in selecting the world leaders.
Now that we have seen the bigger picture let’s get back to the reporter’s question about “the rapid proliferation of small immigrant start-up congregations and the larger established churches” in relation to church growth. In USA Today, March 2011, it stated that the Adventist church was the fastest growing denomination in North America.[vi] We see this growth here in our Conference, for example in the last four years, our membership grew by 14.9%. The growth was very significant among immigrate populations, 37% among the African led churches, 26% among the Hispanic church and 114% among the groups that don’t use Spanish or English. The Huffington Post, 2015, reported that Seventh-day Adventists are among the most racially and ethnically diverse American religious groups: 37% are white, while 32% are black, 15% are Hispanic, 8% are Asian and another 8% are another race or mixed race.[vii]
You can be proud to be a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is a global church with people from “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”. As we move forward in the next four years the challenge for us here in Minnesota Conference is to recognize that we are racially and ethnically diverse, and we must find ways we can all work together “Keeping our EYES on eternity,” preaching the everlasting gospel “unto them that dwell on the earth.” Rev 14:6. Are you all in for Jesus?
[i] Adventist Review July 2016
[iii] Ellen G White, 8T 236,237, “Every member of the church has a voice in choosing officers of the church. The church chooses the officers of the state conferences. Delegates chosen by the state conferences choose the officers of the union conferences, and delegates chosen by the union conferences choose the officers of the General Conference. By this arrangement every conference, every institution, every church, and every individual, either directly or through representatives, has a voice in the election of the men who bear the chief responsibilities in the General Conference.”
[iv] Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 18th Edition, page 71, “The term of office for officers of both the church and its auxiliary organizations shall be one year, except where the church in a business meeting votes to have elections every two years in order to facilitate continuity and development of spiritual gifts and eliminate the work involved in having yearly elections.”
[v] Minnesota Conference Bylaws Article V, section 1, b. “The purpose of a regular session is to elect the officers of the Conference; the members of the Board of Trustees, Board of Education, Maplewood Academy Board, the Articles and Bylaws Committee, Finance Committee, and the Plans Committee, who are not ex-officio members; and to hear reports; to plan for the future of the Conference; and to conduct any other business that may come before the constituency.”
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