After conducting its biggest self-evaluation in more than 80
years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division has set goals
of exploring alternative methods for funding world mission, building stronger
branding, and streamlining operations.
The three goals emerged during a North American Division
meeting tasked with examining ways of working more effectively in North America,
no small undertaking for a division that was only created in 1990. Before that,
the General Conference, which oversees the world church, had also steered the
church’s work in North America.
Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division, thanked the more than
230 delegates for attending the meeting with “open hearts and open minds.”
“This selfless spirit demonstrates a real desire to honestly examine our
current organizational and missional delivery systems and how they need to be
adapted to make the Adventist church more relevant in our communities in the
21st century,” Jackson said in a statement after the meeting last month.
Among those who attended the talks in Chantilly, Virginia,
were the top three officers from each of the division’s 59 conferences and nine
union conferences, as well as representatives from hospitals, colleges and universities.
The division has held similar meetings on a smaller scale in
previous years to discuss matters such as tithing percentages and retirement
But this time it wanted to identify the main challenges
facing the region and make necessary adjustments, said Dan Weber, communication
director for the division.
The first question posed to delegates was, “Would you be
willing to sacrifice your position if it meant more effective mission in the
territory?” Ninety-five percent of attendees agreed, a result that was met with
“Once they had that commitment, that drove the rest of the conversation,” Weber
The North American Division’s funding of other parts of the
world church is a major issue on the minds of church leaders. While North
American Division officials say they relish the opportunity to play a leading
told in world mission, they also note that the division provides nearly half of
the General Conference’s world budget, a significant portion of which is
appropriated to the 12 other divisions. Appropriations to each division range
from $1.3 million to $4.9 million.
The amount of funds that the North American Division shares with other
divisions has dropped from 90 percent in 1990, said Gary Patterson, who served
as assistant to the North American Division president from 1987 to 1994.
And the figure could continue to decline as growing church
memberships in other divisions contribute more to their divisions’ needs
through tithes and offerings.
At home, challenges facing the North American Division include declining rates
of young people attending church, declining membership among the native-born
population, and only 30 percent of eligible Adventist elementary and secondary
students attending Adventist schools, delegates heard at the division meeting.
A new challenge emerged this week when the constituencies of
the Pacific Press and the Review and Herald publishing houses approved a
restructuring of the church’s publishing in North America that saw Pacific Press become an institution of the North American
Division. Before that, Pacific Press was overseen by the General Conference.
A committee will be tasked with exploring the three goals prioritized at last
month’s meeting and will report ideas for implementation to the division’s
year-end meeting in November.
“Change is scary,” said Weber, the communication director. “But if you look at
it through the eyes of the healthiness of the organization for mission, then
you have to do it.”