by AT News Team

Six strategic goals for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America and more than a million dollars of relief for the survivors of Hurricane Sandy were voted during the annual meeting this week of the North American Division (NAD) governing body. The NAD executive committee began its meeting Friday, November 2, as a massive storm brought record rain and winds to the Washington DC suburb where it convened and worse damage further north.
 
The committee voted to appropriate a half million dollars to Adventist Community Services (ACS) to establish the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and called upon local churches to match this amount with a special offering on Sabbath, November 10. Before the meeting ended on Tuesday the General Conference (GC) world body of the denomination announced its gift of $200,000 to the fund. Other gifts by denominational units announced by ACS this week include $30,000 from the Atlantic Union Conference where the greatest damage was sustained, $20,000 from the Guam Micronesia Mission half way around the world but also part of the NAD, and $10,000 each from the Pacific Union Conference and the Southern Union Conference.
 
“It’s important for our church to be there to help people who have been affected by widespread devastation,” Pastor Dan Jackson, president of the Church in North America, said to the group. “We could be the Jesus that some of these people will only see and experience from these acts of kindness.” More information about Adventist groups involved in the disaster response efforts is reported by Adventist Today in other news stories.
 
The committee established six major goals for the denomination as well as a revised mission statement, “To reach North America and the world with hope and wholeness.” The strategic goals include:
 
1. “Retention of young adults … through a revitalized campus ministries program along with [local] church activities that engage their interests and energies.”
 
2. Extending “Adventist education [to] everyone using innovative online modalities to increase enrollment of school-age children and youth” as well as “enable the local church to serve as a key community learning center.”
 
3. Expanding “the potential and practice of women clergy” including “better member education, increased mentoring and [improved] recruitment, support and affirmation” from Church administrators.
 
4. “Evangelism and outreach specifically targeted to large cities and native-born [North] Americans.” In the NAD territory four out of five residents live in the metropolitan areas and three out four are native-born, not immigrants while Adventist growth is concentrated among immigrants and local churches are more likely to be in non-metropolitan communities.
 
5. Develop “a coherent media strategy with an emphasis on social media” instead of traditional television, radio and print formats.
 
6. Continue to evangelize “emerging immigrant people groups” where the Adventist Church has had the most significant response in the last three decades.
 
In a keynote sermon on Friday evening, Jackson spoke against “inauthentic, judgmental Christianity” and urged the denomination to face the fact that “genuine fellowship is often lacking our churches … it is not seen and experienced in the way we treat those who disagree or in the way we treat one another … and it is killing us. It turns people off.” Church administrators from local and union conferences in Bermuda, Canada, the United States and the U.S. Pacific territories spent Thursday and Friday in a workshop on diversity.
 
Adventist membership in North America stood at 1.2 million as July 1, the 300 committee members were told by NAD executive secretary Pastor G. Alexander Bryant. There were nearly 6,200 local congregations and the growth rate for the previous 12 months had slowed to 1.35 percent, down from about two percent in the previous year.
 
Bryant affirmed the 13,651 short-term and regular missionaries that the NAD shared with the denomination in the rest of the world over the last 12 months, as well as the 34,450 volunteers active in Adventist Community Services. He expressed concern that the percentage of young adults among the members is about half that of the general population and that while 60 percent of the members are women only 14 of 214 church administrators are women.