The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official membership passed 19.5 million members in the first half of 2016, powered in part by a record 100,000 baptisms in Rwanda.
“Praise the Lord! There are now more than 19.5 million Adventists worldwide!” the Adventist Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research said in announcing the new figure on Twitter.
The church had 19,578,942 members as of June 30, a net increase of 452,495 people, or 2.37 percent, from the last count on Dec. 31.
“We praise God for His incredible blessings of providing 19.5 million baptized brothers and sisters around the world!” Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson said Thursday on his Facebook page. “God will continue to use every one of them who are willing to be part of Total Member Involvement in reaching the 7.5 billion people of the world who need to know about Christ, His righteousness, His salvation and His soon Second Coming.”
Among those accessions were 100,135 people baptized after a two-week evangelistic series in Rwanda in May. It was the biggest baptism after evangelistic meetings in the 153-year history of the Adventist Church.
The growth comes even as the church, founded in 1863 with only 3,500 members, undergoes a comprehensive membership audit to ensure that reported statistics reflect the reality on the ground.
Audit losses make it difficult to predict whether membership will reach 20 million by year-end, said David Trim, director of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
“I don’t doubt that net accessions will exceed 1 million again, but growth is affected by the losses as well,” Trim told the Adventist Review.
The church’s membership has grown by more than 1 million members annually for the past 12 years in a row, with an all-time record 1.26 million joining in 2015, according to a recent report from the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.
Trim said audit results are often collated and posted at the end of the year rather than in the preceding three quarterly reports.
“That means that one can’t necessarily expect the growth in the first two quarters to be repeated in the second,” he said. “Accessions might well be the same — or even increase — but the subtractions through the audit process could well be much greater than in the first two quarters.”
Meanwhile, the church’s South American Division announced Thursday that 857 churches opened on its territory over the first six months of 2016. The division said it was on track to reach its goal of 1,700 new churches this year after a church with 65 members opened in a prison in Sorocaba, Brazil, on July 24 and a church with more than 100 immigrant members from eight African countries will open in Hortolândia, Brazil, on Aug. 6.