The ministerial team of the Inter-European Division (EUD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church recently celebrated a Bible conference event that brought together pastors from across the EUD under the title, “Anticipating His Coming.” From June 6 to 11, 160 pastors from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, and Switzerland-France gathered at the Adventist University of France in Collonges-sous-Salève, France. From June 12 to 16, 260 pastors from Germany, Switzerland-Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia met at Friedensau Adventist University, Germany.
The last time such a pastoral meeting was convened was in 2013, so there was a lot of excitement to promote a meeting that would reconnect pastors from different countries.
The third Bible conference will take place from September 11 to 14 at Stupini Adventist University in Romania, hosting pastors from Romania and Bulgaria.
Family Atmosphere and Connection
The event, both in Collonges and Friedensau, was memorable for the fraternity experienced among pastors from different contexts and cultures, organizers said. “Despite living on the same continent, the realities faced in each country and each city are unique,” they said.
The objective of these conferences, in the words of Ventsislav Panayotov, EUD director of the Ministerial Association, Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, and leadership development, was “to encourage pastors, giving them tools to support, enable, and help in their ministries.” Panayotov was one of the event organizers together with Regina Fleischmann.
In addition to the moments of pastoral fellowship, there were morning devotionals and moments of prayer, 16 plenary sessions, and 20 workshops.
For Spanish Union secretary Josué Reta, “the most valuable thing is the meeting among colleagues, the moments of relaxed conversation about the challenges we encounter every day, and the opportunity of encouraging each other in prayer. We know we are not alone.”
For Marvin Brand, church planter and communication director of the Swiss Union, the event allowed him to connect with pastors from different fields and exchange experiences and reflections on pastoral work. “What I liked most were the presentations on mission focus. We need more practical applications from the theological research and discussion of case studies,” he said.
Biblical Presentations and Workshops
The morning devotionals were led by General Conference (GC) associate ministerial secretary Anthony Kent. He invited participants to reflect on the pastoral calling through different Bible encounters, the value God gives pastors as workers in His field, and the need to focus efforts on proclaiming Jesus to a needy world.
The plenary sessions focused mostly on the doctrine of the sanctuary, approached from numerous perspectives by Daniel Olariu (Friedensau Adventist University), Denis Fortin (Andrews University), Elias Brasil de Souza (Biblical Research Institute), Ranko Stefanovic (Andrews University), Roy Gane (Andrews University), and Laurentiu Mot (Adventus University).
Trans-European Division Anthony Wagner-Smith spoke about church planting in contemporary settings. Laszlo Gallusz (Newbold College) focused on analyzing the problem of the delay of Jesus’ second coming from an Adventist perspective. Samuel Gil (Spanish Union) addressed the opportunities and challenges of digital mission, a new outreach field in which to be a compass with intentionality and relevance.
Other speakers included Laszlo Szabo (Friedensau Adventist University), who spoke on how to present the Adventist message from the perspective and needs of a secular audience; Tara VinCross (local church pastor in the U.S.), who talked about the deep calling and the dimensions of the pastor’s spiritual health; and GC associate health ministries director Torben Bergland, who presented three sessions on the physical, mental, and social health of the pastor, providing markers and concepts to identify and overcome various situations.
The workshops were held simultaneously in the different spaces of each Adventist campus so that each pastor had the opportunity to attend four workshops of their own choice, with topics such as “Adventist Mission Theology in Face of Reality,” “Revelation and Mission: Dreams and Visions in the Islamic World,” and “The Signs of the Second Coming or the Signs of the End,” among others.
Finally, in addition to other times of prayer and worship, a plenary session was devoted to considering the biblical perspective on LGBTQ+, presented by Roy Gane, which concluded with a panel of questions and open mic at each of the conferences. “The atmosphere was respectful and participatory,” participants reported. “We sought biblical answers but also considered other emotional, psychological, and social aspects of this reality.”