October 8, 2023, brought the third day of General Conference (GC) Annual Council business meetings. With it came the Secretary’s Report, a Nominating Committee report and vote to fill several open positions, a change in the territory of the divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Asia, and an update on an upcoming children’s Sabbath School curriculum. It was also the first day to be comprised of a morning and afternoon business meeting.
Secretary’s Report Highlights Mission Refocus
Sunday’s business session began with the Secretary’s Report, led by Erton Köhler, executive secretary for the GC. The report contained a critical statistical analysis and emphasized how the mission refocus of the Adventist Church alters the landscape of missionary service.
Why it matters: The reports given by the GC Secretariat at Annual Council assist in determining the effectiveness of the Adventist Church’s strategic plans and inform the Executive Committee on the state of the Church through data.
Driving the news: In his statistical report, David Trim, director of the GC Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, shared with Executive Committee members statistics to show worldwide church membership stood at 22,425,452 at the end of June 2023, compared to 22,064,147 at the end of June 2022.
- Trim also reported a rebound in annual accessions from the 2020 pandemic slump.
- 2022 was a year of second highest records, with the second-highest number of annual accessions ever, with the church also weathered a loss of nearly 1 million members—the second-highest number of losses.
- Church membership in the 10/40 window has risen over the past 20 years, coinciding with a population increase. Thus, despite much evangelistic effort, most of the Adventist Church’s members lie outside the 10/40 window, and most of the world’s population is inside the 10/40 window.
Yes, but: Karen Porter, an associate secretary for the GC, addressed Executive Committee members, sharing that “Mission Refocus” seeks to bring back a spirit of sacrifice and urgency of taking the good news of salvation to the outer-most parts of the world. As a result, most church-sponsored missionaries will be redirected to the 10/40 window, the urban window, and the secular post-Christian window.
Of note: Various World Church divisions have redirected portions of their budget to fund or sponsor missionaries within one of the windows of opportunity.
What people are saying: “I know that changes are painful, but changes are needed,” Köhler said. “We have an inspired call to adjust our view for the times that we are living. … The worst that can happen for God’s church is that when Jesus comes, he will find all the extra money he sent to us to accomplish the mission, earning interest in the banks and not being used in the field.”
- E. Douglas Venn, director of Adventist Possibility Ministries and assistant to the president, implored the Adventist Church to involve the marginalized, such as people with disabilities, in the church’s mission. “The world sees individuals with disabilities as broken, and they focus on limitations,” he said.
By the numbers: The Executive Committee accepted the Secretary’s Report by a 207-3 vote.
Go deeper: Stay tuned for the Adventist Review’s article on the Secretary’s Report to come.
Leaders Elected to Serve
Seven leaders were elected during the October 8 business session to fill six GC and one division vacancy. Each person was selected by the Nominating Committee and elected by the Executive Committee by an overwhelming majority.
The newly elected leaders:
- East-Central Africa Division Treasurer - Yohannes Olana Beyene
- Scientist for Geoscience Research Institute - Lance Pompe
- Field Secretary - Vyacheslav Demyan
- Associate Director of Children's Ministries - Nilde Itin
- Associate Director of Planned Giving and Trust Services - Hector Reyes
- Associate Director of Women's Ministries - Galina Stele
Go deeper: Read ANN’s report on the elected leaders here.
Asia-Pacific Division Territories are Reconfigured
The Bangladesh Union Mission, Pakistan Union Section, Himalayan (Nepal) Section, and Sri Lanka Mission were moved from the Southern Asia-Pacific (SSD) and Southern Asia Division (SUD) territory to the Northern Asia-Pacific Division territory.
Why it matters: The reconfiguration of the divisions allows the North Asia-Pacific Division (NSD) to receive more targeted mission impact through 10/40 window opportunities.
Driving the news: Since the attachment of the Chinese Union Mission to the GC in 2019, the Northern Asia-Pacific Division requested additional territory to provide the division with more 10/40 window mission opportunities.
- After much deliberation, the Asia-Pacific Territorial Review Commission studied the church's work in the Asia-Pacific region and later advised the Northern Asia-Pacific Division to request a recommendation from the survey committee to the GC ADCOM and the Executive Committee to reconfigure the territories.
What people are saying: “This territorial adjustment perfectly aligns with the Mission Refocus initiative and will allow the Division to impact the 10/40 window,” said Saw Samuel, associate secretary of the General Conference.
- “I do pray and hope that our people will be united under the NSD,” said Bhaju Ram Shrestha, a lay delegate from Nepal.
Go deeper: Read our report on the reconfiguration to come soon!
Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department Updates Executive Committee on “Alive in Jesus” Children and Youth Curriculum
A progress update was given on the development of the new “Alive in Jesus” Sabbath School curriculum for children and youth by Nina Atcheson, a senior editor at the GC Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department.
Why it matters: The curriculum, set for a staggered release beginning in 2025, will be the first significant overhaul of the GC’s children and youth Sabbath School curriculum in nearly 20 years.
Driving the news: “Alive in Jesus” will increase the quantity of available resources to parents and Sabbath School teachers, all while deepening the quality of the Sabbath School curriculum.
Of note: Over 95 percent of people who participated in a wide-ranging global pilot of the curriculum rated it “good,” “great,” or “excellent.”
Yes, but: While responding to a question about translating the new curriculum into the many languages that compose the world field, Jim Howard, SSPM director, indicated that the department does not have the resources to translate the curriculum into all the languages necessary to cover the worldwide church. However, they are searching for solutions and will look to the worldwide Church for support.
What people are saying: “The whole curriculum is very thoughtful and yet highly inspirational,” said Clinton Whalen, an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute. “I guess I don’t have enough superlatives to describe this curriculum. It’s something that the whole family, from the youngest children up to parents and even grandparents, would find a wonderful resource.”
- “We want you to give strong support and promotion of this in your territories,” Howard said. “We just really want to see this in the hands of our children and youth. Anything you can do, we greatly appreciate.”
Go deeper: Watch the Annual Council recorded live stream here.