Members of the General Conference Executive Committee (GCEXCOM) voted to recommend to the 61st General Conference Session, to be held in 2022, to grant conference status to the Northern Ghana Union Mission (NGUM) in the West-Central Africa Division (WAD). The motion was voted on October 11, 2021, the first day of business sessions at the 2021 Annual Council at the Adventist Church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Church leaders explained that the motion brought to GCEXCOM reflects the region’s steady growth and financial stability. A union is usually made up of several local administrative fields. A union with the “conference” designation is financially self-supporting. In contrast, a union with a “mission” status is still reliant on its parent management structure, usually a division, for support and oversight.
Geoffrey Mbwana, a general vice-president of the General Conference (GC) with responsibilities that include the western Africa region of the world church, shared that WAD had submitted a request to the GC for NGUM to be granted conference status. In keeping with General Conference policies, a survey commission was appointed to study the readiness of the union mission to be granted union conference status. Mbwana chaired the commission.
“We are glad to bring a report after this was brought to ADCOM [the Administrative Committee of the GC], and it was voted to be recommended to this body [GCEXCOM],” Mbwana said.
Gerson Santos, field secretary of the GC and secretary of the survey commission, provided some background and a summary of the report of the commission. He shared that NGUM includes 10 church regions, nine of which already have conference status. Regional church statistics show that NGUM currently has almost 195,000 baptized members and 1,014 organized churches and congregations.
According to other statistics shared by the Survey Commission, the region has a solid number of support services, including 250 Adventist elementary schools and 155 high schools. Seven of the latter are boarding schools, and the region also includes two Adventist colleges. Santos shared charts to show that Adventist health-care institutions are well developed too, with 15 hospitals and medical clinics.
Tithe, the 10 percent of income that many members contribute to the church, has experienced impressive growth in national currency. While tithe in NGUM at the end of 2014 amounted to almost 12.8 million Ghanaian cedis (about US$2.1 million), in 2020 it reached almost 31.1 million cedis (more than $5.1 million), a 142-percent increase. Per capita, tithe went from 107.27 cedis in 2016 to 159.59 in 2020, a 48.77-percent increase, Santos reported.
He shared that the survey commission met twice, in June and August 2021. After analyzing support documents, commission members asked pointed questions to division and union leaders. It eventually recommended approving the change in status of the Northern Ghana Union Mission to Northern Ghana Union Conference.
Commendations and Recommendations
The commission included several commendations and recommendations. Among the former, the survey commission commended the region for demonstrating mature leadership and positive influence over the local fields and strong support to the world church. It also commended the church region for keeping a stable financial position and continual support to other levels of the organization. According to statistics, 70 percent of members participate in some outreach in that region, and the retention rate of new members currently reaches 78 percent.
Among the recommendations, the survey commission suggested that NGUM maintain a supportive and collaborative attitude after the requested change of status, keep its solid financial position, and increase the number of Adventist teachers serving at Adventist educational institutions. Santos explained that, just like in other regions of the world church that experience substantial growth in the number of church educational institutions, it is often a challenge to find enough qualified teachers who are also church members.
Comments from the Floor and Vote
After a motion to recommend a change of status was made, WAD president Elie Weick-Dido stood to speak in favor of it. He shared how the Adventist message reached Ghana in 1888 in what he called “a very unusual way.” According to Weick-Dido, someone found a pamphlet on the shore of the Gold Coast. The pamphlet eventually led the member of the Ashanti people who read it to accept the Adventist message and share it with others. “From that date,” Weick-Dido said, “the Ashanti people have been spreading this message. They [kept] the Sabbath before any missionary entered Ghana.”
Nowadays, Weick-Dido said, many Ghanaians emigrate and live in other countries. But “everywhere Ghanaians go, they start a new church — from Israel to Australia to the U.S., Canada, and Europe.”
Kingsley Anonaba, a GCEXCOM member from WAD, also spoke on behalf of the recommendation, noting that it looks to encourage the region to do even greater mission. “I want to thank the Lord for this field, especially for the team of leaders, who are so committed,” Anonaba said. “They have promised the division leaders that they will follow all the recommendations made. By God’s grace, the leadership of this mission is working to take the message into the northern region of the territory.”
Another EXCOM member, Nana Kofi Nimako, also spoke in favor of the motion. He commended the church leadership in the region, noting that they have taken the church to an extremely visible level. “We just want to encourage them to continue to do more … to lift the banner of Christ high” in that region.
The motion to recommend that the 61st General Conference Session grant union conference status to the Northern Ghana Union Mission in the West-Central Africa Division was passed 163 votes to 1.