Trans-European Division (TED) leaders are excited about a new strategic framework for the division that was voted as a working document on Sunday, March 28. It focuses on plans for mission from now until the 2025 GC Session and beyond.
Introducing the document, TED President Raafat Kamal says, “The passion for distinctively Seventh-day Adventist mission needs to impel everything done by the Trans-European Division, by its 11 unions and three attached fields, through to its nearly 90,000 members.”
Kamal adds that the strategic framework “is intended to help Adventists within the TED territory to renew our Adventist identity which speaks to the challenges of the 21st-century world, and to renew in this century the passion for the mission of past generations.”
The 26-page document then develops a framework in 11 key areas stretching from Mission, Identity, and Evangelism, through Spiritual Growth, Leadership Development, and Disciple-Making, to issues of Diversity and the appropriate training of pastors and leaders in the context of European culture and its spiritual needs. It is based upon the General Conference strategic plan, I will go, but contextualized for Europe.
Gábor Nagy from Hungary is a lay member and one of the 36 members of the executive committee which met to discuss and review the document.
“I really appreciate that we have totally accepted the main global GC strategic plan,” he says. “We are a global church so I think the framework should be reflected in every level of the organization. It’s really great that we have a few additions on the TED level.”
Reflecting on the particular challenges of the past year, Marius Radosh, a lay representative from Poland, notes that “each organization is tested in times of crisis.” He adds that “being well prepared and adapted to the new pandemic and post-pandemic situation the strategy helps us go through difficult times as a winner.”
The committee is a mixture of lay members, union presidents, church pastors, TED officers, and directors. One of those is Ian Sweeney. Having spent ten years as president of the British Union Conference, Sweeney is realistic about what committees and plans achieve.
“At first reading, and possibly because of too many years dealing with problems as an administrator, I felt that several of the recommendations were going to be impossible to implement,” Sweeney admits. “On further reflection, however, I see these same ‘impossible’ recommendations as wonderful opportunities for our church in the TED and the BUC.”
One of those “wonderful opportunities” is in the area of pastoral needs and training. Newbold is changing as a training college with the aim of equipping both spiritually gifted individuals--men and women alike--and worshipping groups across TED to participate dynamically and fruitfully in ministry and mission. The redesigned curriculum will enable it to be a positive source of ethical and effective leaders, committed pastors, disciple-makers, and church planters. The “new” Newbold aims to combine excellence in scholarship with training that is highly practical and mission-focused. It will also reflect the diversity of the church across the entire division.
This is exciting for Ivo Kläsk, president of the Baltic Union.
“I find it most helpful that we are working with a renewed focus on training pastors for our fields and that we are working together toward influencing the understanding of the role of a pastor,” he says. “A pastor is the key in the church body directing and equipping the church mission and discipleship on the grassroots level.”
The aim for pastors, lay leaders, and church members is transformative, effective disciple-making. At the division level, this means an even stronger emphasis on teamwork, with directors working even more closely together to enhance training, resources, and effectiveness. This was a concept first introduced in 2015. Now the aim is to increase the effectiveness of such cross-fertilization.
“It’s not so much the headings of the plan--e.g. spiritual growth, the church of refuge, mission identity, and evangelism--but more the focus and descriptions on ways to engage with our members, local communities, and especially young people,” explains Christine Burt, a lay-representative from the BUC. Along with many on the committee, she notes that: “Young people are crucial for church growth and during COVID church engagement has often been challenging. The media and online ministry and church of refuge areas of the plan have many suggestions for engaging the youth.”
Hilde Huru, a lay member from north Norway, sees the focus on retaining young people in the church, as well as the emphasis on training and educating pastors as well as members as very useful.
“Especially interesting,” she says, “is making continuing pastoral education more systematic and mandatory.”
She would also like to see the TED working with unions on a series of Bible and mission conferences – ideally with topics being selected according to local need.
Huru also noted the important emphasis on rooting out any cultural or racial biases from the church.
“It is not enough for leaders not to be racist or nationalist or biased in any way, but we need to be purposefully anti-racist, and have systems in place to make us override our unconscious biases.”
This includes the hiring process where she recommends ensuring that “TED Ethical Employment Policies are established and used as standard practice in all units of denominational structure and institutions.”
Sweeney agrees but notes that the diversity issue needs to look at our external mission as much as within our church community. With the BUC probably having the most diverse membership in Europe, he says that “the recommendations would allow our church to share and celebrate our internal diversity and consequently be better equipped to reach our diverse communities and neighborhoods.”
The full strategic framework is available on the TED website. With TED spring meetings approaching, including the election of directors, associate officers, and lay and pastoral representatives, Executive Committee members are committed to helping see the church in Europe move forward even in the midst of both recent and historic challenges.
As Kamal says, “Most important is the guidance by the power of the Holy Spirit and our choice, I will go, that lies in our hands, our response to the challenges, and what view we take of our situation. Are we struggling to survive, or acting together to ensure that we thrive? Our choice, in sum, is hope or fear. But as Paul writes, ‘Through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope;’ veritably, our God is ‘the God of hope,’ and ‘by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope’” (Romans 15:13 ESV).
An impossible challenge?
“Not so,” says Sweeney. “I believe that part of the success of this strategic framework will be in approaching it with a positive mindset that sees wonderful opportunities.”