Adventists in Germany Affirm Direction, Reappoint Leadership
From APD, May 2, 2017: Delegates from the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Germany met Sunday and Monday (Apri 30 and May 1) at Darmstadt for two union conference constituency meetings held every five years. More than 300 delegates in the South German Union Conference meeting and a total of 206 from the North German Union Conference.
Pastor Johannes Naether was re-elected president of the North German Union Conference. The vote was 172 in favor and 24 against for Naether to serve another five years. Since he was first elected five years ago, Naether has focused on the spiritual life of Adventists, stressing the importance of prayer and fellowship. He often speaks of a focus on Jesus Christ and the Gospel in the secular context of Europe. “In this sense,” he said, “we must have the courage to realign our relationship to teaching and tradition of our Church to lovingly … explore the possibilities for an even more sensitive as we can work into our society,” said Naether. He was convinced that “the message of the cross is ‘the signs of the times’ as we have to interpret it in our time.”
Pastor Friedbert Hartmann was confirmed as vice president for another five years with 174 in favor and 22 votes against. Dieter Neef was appointed chief financial officer (CFO) with 188 in favor and six against. He serves at the same as CFO for both of the union conferences in Germany, an arrangement that saves costs and staffing. In addition, 31 people were voted as members of the governing body of the union conference.
The delegates of the South German Union Conference re-elected Pastor Werner Dullinger as president by a vote of 214 in favor and 65 against. They also confirmed Pastor Jochen Streit as vice president for another five years with 220 in favor and 66 against, and approved Neef as CFO with 253 in favor and 33 against.
The East German Union Conference merged with the West German Union Conference in 1992 when the nation was reunited toward the end of the “cold war” between the old Soviet Union and its allies and the western nations allied with the United States through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), recalled Naether in his report. There is growing national collaboration between the North German Union Conference and South German Union Conference.
In addition to the common financial management, a national press and information office has existed for some time and the two union conferences cosponsor national institutions such as the Religious Education Institute, the Institute of Continuing Education, the German Association for Health Care, the Adventist of Welfare Work agency, the Department of Interchurch Relations, a center for public issues and conscientious objectors. Since 2014 the denomination has operated only one central warehouse in Germany for community service programs.
The North German delegates voted 180 in favor and just 12 abstentions for the merger of the two union conferences. Pastor Mario Brito, president of the denomination’s Inter-European Division regional office in Bern, Switzerland, stated that the division leaders consider a merger to be desirable and would like to give this assistance.
Hartmann reported a total of 19,715 baptized members in the North German union conference in 337 local churches in the four conferences. The territory includes 11 of the 16 states in Germany with a total population of 48 million. Neef reported that Tithe in the North German Union Conference had increased to more than 25 million euros in 2016. On average, each member had donated 1,295 euros last year.
The South German Union Conference has a membership of 15,564 in 221 local churches organized in three local conferences. It covers five of Germany’s 16 states with a total population of 35 million.
In 2012, the North German Union Conference delegates voted 160 in favor and 47 against (a majority of more than 77 percent) to end gender discrimination in the ordination of pastors, Naether recalled. This was a remarkable decision because it is counter to the opinion of the majority of the delegates to the worldwide denominational General Conference Session in 2015.
Adventist women clergy continue to be Commissioned Ministers and employed on an equal basis as pastors, Bible teachers, chaplains and ministry directors in many, but not all parts of the world. Commissioned Ministers preside over sacramental acts, such as baptism, communion, weddings and funerals in many places. According to denominational policy, only ordained clergy may be appointed to the church leadership posts of president of a union or local conference, although one local conference in the United States has an ordained female pastor serving in that role.
In June 2016 the governing body of the North German Union Conference voted to stop the ordination of men and to have only Commissioned Ministers in order to treat both female and male clergy equally. The only ordination in this union conference is when someone is elected union conference president, regardless of whether it is a man or a woman. This is the only way equality among pastors can be implemented at present, Naether reported.
APD is the news service of the Adventist denomination in Europe. This bulletin was received by Adventist Today in German and translated to English. The featured photo is from one of the stained glass windows in the church in Darmstadt.