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Church Leadership in a "Very Interesting Time in History"

A summary report of the second day of the 2023 North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Year-End Meeting

G. Alexander Bryant begins day two business session at the 2023 NAD Year-End meeting on Oct. 27.

Paulo Macena, director of leadership for the North American Division, as part of G. Alexander Bryant's president's report on day two business session at the 2023 NAD Year-End meeting on Oct. 27, shares pertinent resources for leaders in the strategic focus area of "mentorship." Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

Where are we going as the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist church; and how are our resources allocated in order to reach those goals were the broad focus areas of the second day of the 2023 NAD Year-End Meeting, themed “Together in Mission: I Will Go.”

“God has called us to lead, with an assignment to serve in a very interesting time in history,” declared G. Alexander Bryant, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America (NAD) as he began his president’s report on Oct. 27. He continued by asking all the attendees to ponder “what God is calling us to do at this moment.”  His key focus of “looking at ways we can better and more effectively collaborate together’ as ‘we are more effective, more powerful, more impactful on those things when we can do them together,” were themes that echoed across the other main agenda items of the morning. [A fuller summary of the president’s report will soon be available to read.]

The first was an in-depth presentation on how tithe is distributed within the church by recently retired NAD treasurer Randolph Robinson and the next was reports from three special committees who followed up on the three challenging breakout topics from the 2022 session: 1) Education; 2) On-Line Churches; and 3) Membership Data.  

Day two of the NAD YEM in October 2023

Randy Robinson, recently retired North American Division treasurer, shares a tithe analysis report during day two of the 2023 NAD Year-End Meeting (Oct. 27). Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

This Is How Tithe Works

Robinson drew on his many years of experience, both as NAD treasurer and a conference level treasurer, to try and present a comprehensive, easy-to-understand picture of how tithe funds move within the Adventist Church between the levels of the conference, the union, and finally the division.  His passionate belief that “our ability to do things together, is our key to success” came through each section of the presentation. 

After laying out the basic pie chart depictions of the split of approximately 65 percent staying with the local conference, then 14 percent going to the NAD and General Conference (GC), 9 percent to the union, 11 percent to the retirement fund, and just under 1 percent to the special assistance fund, Robinson spent most of the remaining time showing all the ways that large portions of that money still return to the local conference and church level.   This might be in the form of appropriations from the special assistance fund, which helps conferences with less resources, or through services provided such as comprehensive insurance or school curriculum development which would be much more expensive, if not impossible, to do at an individual conference or church level. 

“These appropriations and expenditures occur because of the following principles that have been a part of the church structure for a very long time,” said Robinson. “Number one is the more financially able helping the less financially able, and number two is focusing on the ability to target resources to large areas of need church-wide.”

This was a topic that touched the work of every person attending these meetings and at the close many delegates stood to add their own comments to the discussion.  Most focused on how important it is to get this information out to the lay members of the church, especially the younger generations who do not inherently support institutions as readily as their elders did, encouraging the division to share this beyond plans already in place to publish in the December 2023 Adventist Journey magazine. Others highlighted that the highest percentage of increases in costs occur at the conference level and dealing with that needs to be addressed no matter how much there is value to what they receive in combined services.

Bryant closed the session by saying, “I asked Elder Robinson to make this presentation … because [we need to] understand what we have, how it is divided and then we need to make some decisions. What we have is a tremendous thing; and how can we ensure that it continues to be a tremendous thing going forward?”

President’s Award

The delegates rose to their feet for a thank-you presentation to Robinson and his wife Denise for their 41 years of service across the division.  Bryant presented Robinson with the President’s Award for Faithful and Committed Service.  “Thank-you for your faithfulness and also your friendship and relationship through the years,” said Bryant. (Robinson retired this past July and he and his wife will soon be moving to Florida.)

Joi McClellan, a young adult delegate at the 2023 NAD Year-End Meeting, as the meeting's prayer convener, offers prayer on Oct. 27. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

Joi McClellan, a young adult delegate at the 2023 NAD Year-End Meeting, and a third year dental student at the University of Michigan, offers prayer on Oct. 27, as the meeting's official prayer convener. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

Subcommittee Reports

At the 2022 Year-End Meetings it was decided that certain issues were so important and multifaceted that they merited deep thought and broad discussion.  These were:

  1. Education – how can we recruit and retain more teachers?
  2. On-Line Church – how do we want to respond and engage?
  3. Membership Data – how can we more effectively use the data we have?

A significant amount of time in 2022 was then spent in break-out sessions with groups of delegates putting together an initial list of ideas.  The administration followed up on that work by tasking a committee for each topic to take those ideas and work to refine them into specific actionable steps.  These were now brought back to the 2023 Year-End Meeting in the last session of the business day, and it concluded with breakout sessions to discuss them.  

[A more in-depth report on these important topics will be available soon.]

Newly Elected Positions

Early in the day delegates approved candidates brought forward by the nominating committee for three positions.  Ivan L. Williams, Sr. is the new vice president for strategy and leadership, having previously served as the NAD Ministerial Association director for the past 12 years.  The director of Adventist Learning Community of NAD, Adam Fenner, is now also the new NAD vice president for digital media.  And the vacancy of NAD undertreasurer that was created when Judy Glass became the NAD Treasurer a few months ago will now be filled by Chad Grundy of the Carolina Conference.  Grundy brings with him a history of more than 30 years of conference-level experience.