Church leaders have endorsed a new administrative structure for the church in Africa—a change prompted in part by extraordinary rates of church growth on the continent. The new structure creates a third division, or church territory, to be based in Africa, and adjusts the boundaries of the existing divisions.
Members of the world church executive committee, meeting at the church’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, approved the changes April 17. Matthew Bediako, secretary of the Adventist world church and a Ghanaian national, spoke in support of the new structure, saying it will strengthen the church in Africa, grouping areas together in a more natural way, and allowing more efficient management of resources. “Now we will really see Africa fly!” he said.
Some 4,000 new Adventist believers are baptized each week in the Eastern Africa region alone, reported Pardon Mwansa, leader of the church in that area. “In the past four quarters we have baptized 250,000 members—the Lord is growing His church!”
Pastor Joseph Ola, president of the church in Nigeria, told ANN he is glad that high priority has been given to strengthening church infrastructure in Africa. “Sometimes I sit in the evening time and say, ‘Lord, give me these souls.’ But in my heart, I say ‘Lord, where will I keep them?’”
The church on the continent of Africa is rapidly approaching 5 million members—more than one-third of the worldwide church membership. But church leaders in Africa face increasing challenges in providing nurture for new believers. There are shortages of church buildings in which to worship, pastoral care, and schools.
In 2001 the world church set up an international Commission on Africa to review administrative structures on the African continent. Pastor Lowell Cooper, world church vice president and chair of the Commission, says that throughout the process, members of the commission wanted to “listen to the church in Africa.”
In considering the realignment, the Commission worked to ensure “geographic compactness,” and, where possible, group countries according to cultural and linguistic similarities. It was the intention of the Commission that no individual entity would be either financially benefited or penalized in the restructure, emphasized Cooper.
The Commission also considered the need to reintegrate the church in South Africa with its neighboring countries. The decades-long isolation of South Africa due to apartheid meant that the church there was attached directly to the General Conference, rather than included in one of the other African divisions.
The new administrative structure in Africa will become effective January 1, 2003, and a transition committee will soon be appointed to help move the realignment process forward.