News Articles

The Power of the Spirit: Day Six of 2021 NAD Year-End Meeting

Carolyn R. Forrest, associate secretary-director of human relations for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, opened the sixth and final day of the NAD year-end meetings on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, with a reading of Psalm 100:2. Fountainview Academy in Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada, presented the day’s musical selection via video, performing “Your Grace Still Amazes Me.”

Minner Labrador

Minervino “Minner” Labrador, Jr., NAD vice president for Multilingual Ministries, provides the worship devotional at the Nov. 2, 2021, NAD YEM session. Screenshot

A devotional by Minervino “Minner” Labrador, Jr., vice president for Multilingual Ministries for the NAD, followed. He spoke on the phrase, “Just Go.” Quoting Luke 10, Labrador pointed out that Jesus told His disciples they weren’t to go do the work because of the power and authority it brought them, but because the reward for following His call is eternal life.

“Do not rejoice in the recognition you receive,” he summarized. “Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven. Now go help with the harvest.”

Ministry Reports

A detailed and inspirational report from Oakwood University demonstrated that the institution has done very well during the past year, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic. President Leslie Pollard reported via video that the university has had many “blessings and breakthroughs.”

As a result of continued full workforce in full health (no layoffs, and zero cases of COVID), Oakwood University was able to accomplish the following over the past 12 months:

  • Return all back pay to employees (result of wage decreases);
  • Increased salaries by 3 percent (cost of living increase);
  • Completed several capital projects, including a health center partnership with Huntsville Hospital, a farm market and mobile market, and a center for entrepreneurship;
  • Host Alabama’s School of Engineering and Cybertechnology (high school) on their campus for a year; and
  • Began 10-year plans for an employee housing program.

“We were able to come out ahead despite the pandemic, and we’re using those dollars to reinvest in the future,” Pollard concluded. He also reminded the delegates that on Nov. 16, 2021, Oakwood University will celebrate 125 years.

Dale Galusha, president of Pacific Press Publishing Association, presented a video report themed “Right on Target.” PPPA produces more than six million pieces of sharing material every year, and provides resources for churches, including Sabbath School lessons in 17 languages for every age group.

“There are many forms of evangelism,” he said. “The most effective are those that reach people where they’re at.”

Video reports from Mid-America Union and Pacific Union Conference followed. Pacific Union’s video was a collection of images from across the union throughout the past year, under the theme “Love. Serve. Lead.” Mid-America Union shared highlights from various schools and healthcare organizations. A stand-out story was the Dakota Academy construction classes teaching students practical skills they then put to use remodeling faculty housing.

The meeting then moved into executive session to review policy edits and vote; NAD president G. Alexander Bryant reminded the group that these motions and votes can only take place during the year-end meeting. Several policy adjustments and changes were recommended and all passed following comments and questions from the executive committee. [A full report of the policy reviews can be found here.]

Religious Liberty and the COVID Vaccine

The executive session on policy review and the consent agenda was followed by a report by the NAD COVID-19 Taskforce, including information on the Adventist Church’s position on the vaccine. Bryant reminded the group that the purpose of this segment was not to decide the church’s position, but to share and clarify what that position is; and to receive the report from the taskforce.

Kyoshin Ahn, NAD executive secretary and chair of the COVID-19 taskforce, reported that the group was made up of 14 individuals from health, education, and administration sectors, including representation from the NAD, AdventHealth, the General Conference, Lake Union Conference (communication), Loma Linda University, and representatives from both University of Maryland School of Medicine and Harvard Chan School of Public Health. 

Orlan Johnson

Orlan Johnson, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the NAD, talks about freedom of religion and the role liberty of conscience as part of the NAD COVID-19 Taskforce report presented on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

After Ahn commented on the large role liberty of conscience plays in all of these discussions, Orlan Johnson, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) for the NAD, took to the podium to share a statement.

“It can be argued that freedom of conscience is probably the foundation to all freedoms as it relates to human rights,” Johnson commented.

He went on to explain the purpose of PARL — that they are committed to helping anyone who needs it, regardless of their personal conviction on an issue.

“Though sometimes we may have a difference of opinion, our job is not to judge you,” he pointed out. “Our job is to assist you, and anyone seeking assistance in our department will receive it.” 

Johnson added that PARL helps by assisting in securing a religious exemption and reasonable accommodation from employers. He concluded his presentation by stating that differences in opinion are OK. 

“The reality is that division is one of the primary tools the devil uses and he has been very successful at it,” said Johnson. “If he can divide us among ourselves, he can separate us from Christ. However, we must remember that we can be different, but we do not have to be divided.”

Peter Landless

Peter Landless, General Conference Health Ministries director, reads the GC's recently released statement regarding the COVID-19 vaccine to the NAD Year-End Meeting delegates on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

GC Statement on Vaccines

Peter Landless, GC Health Ministries director, read the General Conference’s recently released statement regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, which can be found here. He began by pointing out that, as healing is one of the four pillars of the Adventist Church, our emphasis is not only on how to be healthy, but also on how we can share health.

“Sanitation, clean water, and immunization have changed the way we live, and how long we live,” he said.

Landless continued by pointing out that when the smallpox vaccination was mandated in the early 20th century, the Spirit of Prophecy was silent on the matter. He added that counsel given to missionaries throughout the last century has been to “be protected” as best as possible, which includes receiving immunizations. Then he pointed to the 2015 GC statement on immunization, upon which the specific COVID-19 vaccination statement was crafted.

“Our appeal is also that we should be kind, caring, and nondiscriminatory,” Landless concluded. “We should listen, care, and live together in peace and unity, by God’s grace.”

Angeline Brauer

At the Nov. 2, 2021 year-end meeting business session, Angeline Brauer, director of NAD Health Ministries, reports on the activity of the COVID-19 taskforce, including their research project, which included more than 1,000 responses from 500 randomly selected churches from across the division. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

COVID-19 Taskforce Details

Angeline Brauer, director of NAD Health Ministries, reported on the activity of the COVID-19 taskforce, including their research project, which included more than 1,000 responses from 500 randomly selected churches from across the division.

Initial data suggests that 67.5 percent of church members have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Churches in inner city and metro areas report higher rates of vaccination than rural locations; and larger churches appear to have higher vaccination rates than those with smaller congregations. Thirty-six percent of respondents stated they had no familiarity at all with the GC’s 2015 statement on immunizations, and 175 individuals said they would be willing to talk with the taskforce in more detail over the phone to share their thoughts and opinions.

Brauer also talked about Health Ministries Voices of Hope, created during the pandemic to “build up our church family; a space for healing, comfort, and togetherness.” Features include a “My Pandemic Story” section, a page to remember a loved one lost to COVID, prayer request submissions, self-care tips, inspiration, pandemic ministry resources, a link to vaccine exemption information, webinars, and early Adventist writings.

“This is a time when we as a church are called to press together,” Brauer said. “It is our prayer that these resources will help us to engage one another in healthful and heartfelt conversations with one another as we seek to achieve the mission of our church.” It was also noted that the division has provided resources and statements on its corporate website.

The taskforce will continue to meet to address questions and needs that continue to arise. The motion to receive the taskforce report was accepted with a 92 percent vote.

NAD Cloud, Chaplaincy, and Union Reports

A video was then shown introducing the brand new NAD Cloud — a comprehensive private cloud and web-posting location service. This custom-built service is available to any entity in the NAD, provides unlimited storage, and is secured via extensive weekly security audits — all free of charge.

The chaplaincy report followed, presented by Paul Anderson, director of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, and M. Gilda Roddy, assistant director. They reported that they have more than 750 chaplains in the field currently, and that during the pandemic, monthly endorsement numbers did not change.

“Working in diverse settings, chaplains are the presence of the church — often in places where the church would otherwise have no ministry,” Roddy shared.

Several union reports came next, with each one reporting plans for intentional and focused evangelism programs in 2022, many also including church plants. 

The North Pacific Union Conference reported that they have allocated special funds to support their three smallest conferences in an effort to facilitate growth, beginning in the Treasure Valley of Idaho.

The Southwestern Union Conference shared that with the influx of population from various parts of the country, diversity is high, for which they are excited. They are also working to help those in Southern Louisiana get back on their feet after Hurricane Ada.

Through a partnership with ADRA Canada, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada has begun a community gardening project, turning high-maintenance lawn areas into spaces for creating community, getting fresh air and fresh food, and learning more about Christ and the Adventist Church.

The Atlantic Union Conference (AUC) shared that next year they are presenting evangelistic series not only in English, but also in Spanish and Karen.

A vote was then called to select the top four points of emphasis from the previous day’s discussion on Media (the second of the week’s three M’s). Results:

  • Professional training on social media for pastors;
  • Create content for members to be shared on various platforms;
  • Utilize young people to lead in social media; and
  • Intentionally integrating ourselves in the community.

Mentorship: The Third M

The day’s breakout session focused on Mentorship, the last of the three M’s chosen as the division’s strategic focus. 

“We’re all trying in one way or another to develop leaders in our organizations,” Bryant said. “Where are some points of overlap? Where are some points of integration and collaboration?”

Bryant then shared statistics indicating that nearly 50 percent of pastors are eligible for retirement in the next three years, then asked the union groups to consider the following questions during the breakout: 

  • How are we equipping the next generation of leaders? 
  • Who is your Timothy or Teresa?
  • How do you find someone to intentionally mentor?
  • In a constituency-based system, how can we still intentionally prepare leaders for tomorrow? 

Reports following the discussion yielded several points of emphasis, which were collected and will be sent to participants later to vote on electronically. Some unions reported on ways they are already intentionally focused on leadership development.

Before ending, the standing nominating committee for the NAD was accepted for the coming five years by a vote of 97 percent.

In Conclusion

In his closing remarks, Bryant said, “I confess that I don’t have the strength or wherewithal to do the assignment God has called me to do. But I do trust in the power that He has promised.”

Bryant then quoted Ellen G. White: “Only to those who wait humbly upon God, who watch for His guidance and grace, is the spirit given. The power of God awaits their demand and reception. This promised blessing, claimed by faith, brings all other blessings in its train” (The Desire of Ages, p. 672).

“This is the promise we all stand on,” Bryant concluded. “In these days, when the world is cynical and we live in a nation that has become less and less a Christian nation, the challenges are overwhelming. It is in the middle of this time that God promises to pour out his spirit, and his spirit will reach the hearts of men and women for him in the last days.”

Closing prayer was offered by G. Earl Knight, AUC president.