To start day six of the 2022 Year-End Meeting for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD), attendees saw video reports from both Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries (ASi) and Oakwood University. On the heels of these inspiring videos came a review of policy revisions, led by Jorge Ramirez, undersecretary for the NAD, who reminded the group that these revisions had already gone through the policy committee, union secretaries (twice), and union officers.
Most changes were minor, such as replacing references to General Conference policy with references to NAD policies, keeping language consistent, and clarifying phrasing. Significant adjustments that garnered additional discussion on the floor included simplifying the Ministerial internship application process, and updating policy on scholarships for Hispanic church members to match current practice.
The simplification of seminary sponsorship eliminates the division inquiring after the candidate’s spiritual calling, with the expectation that this would have been addressed by the candidate’s hiring conference during the employment process.
Discussion included a request to consider awarding scholarships to undergraduate students, not just graduate students, and to ensure the church is not excluding Hispanic students in regional conferences. Ramirez pointed out that regional conferences are included under a separate and similar section of the policy.
Joseph Oh, pastor of administration at Loma Linda University Church, reminded the group that in the past there had been talk of ensuring executive committees at union and conference levels included young adult representation, and requested a report during the 2023 year-end meeting on the progress in this area. During the discussion it was mentioned that currently, division working policy invites one young adult delegate from each union to be serve on the committee.
Bettina Krause, Liberty magazine editor, introduced the Doctrine of Discovery addressing the representation of Native Americans in the church. [Read more about this report and discussion here.]
Next, Angeline Brauer, NAD Health Ministries director, spoke to the church’s comprehensive health ministry, focusing specifically on mental health resources produced by the church. She also talked about “Health Everlasting,” a program designed to create greater participation across all areas of the church in living and sharing the health message.
“Christ spent more time healing than teaching and preaching,” Bauer pointed out. “If we want people to be with us in the church, we need to help them break the chains that prevent them from doing so.” She urged leaders to include health and wholeness in every part of evangelism, not just specific health-focused programs.
A question was posed asking leaders whether there are specific mental health materials designed to aid members of the LGBTQ+ community, and what the church is doing to help youth and young adults struggling with mental health. Bauer replied that there are resources that speak to the issues experienced by members of the LGBTQ+ community, and that the church could use assistance from the field in contextualizing these materials for different population groups.
Carl McRoy, director of Literature Ministries for the NAD, announced the division’s selected focus and distribution book for 2023 and 2024, The Great Controversy. This is the first time leadership has chosen a two-year focus book.
Summary of Focus Areas
During the last portion of the final business session, Bryant reviewed items voted on during the past several days, including the four determined focus areas for exploration following both the education and online church breakout sessions.
- Re-vision the model for the funding of Adventist education;
- Develop teacher recruitment strategies to provide mentoring and prepare for administration those who demonstrate potential;
- Provide comprehensive whole-person care for educators; and
- Provide student loan forgiveness for teachers.
Regarding online churches:
- Establish best practices for digital hybrid churches to allow for engaged, healthy, missional congregations;
- Embrace the digital church strategically and with intentionality under conference or local church accountability;
- Educate and create guidelines to standardize membership, tithing, online attendance, and mission for online churches; and
- Find ways to engage each other and guests online to meet pastoral, social, and other needs.
Finally, G. Alexander Bryant, president of the NAD and chairperson or the meeting, introduced the Antioch Initiative, reminding the executive committee that Antioch was an intense mission field for Barnabas and Paul for nearly two years.
“Antioch showed such signs of progress that the brethren in Jerusalem sent the apostles both human and financial resources from their city,” Bryant pointed out. “It was a combined, concentrated effort, and as a result, Antioch became a thriving place for Christians. What if we took this approach across the NAD?”
Bryant reiterated that out of the 24,000 cities across the North American Division, 20 of them contain almost 50 percent of the population, and around 80 percent of the population is in 50 of these cities. Bryant spoke of focusing resources collaboratively and strategically to make a greater difference, emphasizing a comprehensive health approach to make the local church and schools places for their communities to go for resources on mental health, creating subsidized mission opportunities for young people in North American metro centers, and strategically aligning educational, medical, and ecclesiastical resources.
“We can do this — together,” he concluded. “Matthew 28:18-20 promises us power and authority, sends us into the world, and gives the promise of God’s presence. It’s Jesus’ mic-drop moment — we never go alone. And so we must go.”
— Becky St. Clair writes from Angwin, California.