Brand New: New Union in Southeast Asia Has New Headquarters, New Focus
- Southeastern Asia Union Mission (SEUM) is a brand-new union that was formed after the Southeast Asia Union Mission was dissolved into two unions and a conference in 2021.
- Leaders say the Southeast Asia Union Mission was dissolved because its work had “outgrown the framework of a sole administrative entity.”
- A spokesperson for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division denied any tension among the leaders of the new unions and conference. Leaders called the split cost-effective.
12 April 2022 | The Southeastern Asia Union Mission (SEUM) inaugurated its new headquarters in Muak Lek, Thailand, on March 29, 2022, reported the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD).
SEUM is a brand-new union, formed only last year. Previously, it was part of the Southeast Asia Union Mission, which the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) Executive Committee officially dissolved on Dec. 13, 2021, reported the Adventist News Network.
The Southeast Asia Union Mission was organized in 1917 and included seven countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Over the years, the Southeast Asia Union Mission had considered splitting up periodically, as the work had “outgrown the framework of a sole administrative entity,” said Somchai Chuenjit, former president of the Southeast Asia Union Mission and current president of SEUM, in a video from 2021.
In 2016, a proposal was made to the Southern Asia-Pacific Division to split the union. In 2019, it was voted that it would be dissolved into two new unions—SEUM and the Malaysia Union Mission (MAUM)—and a field attached to the South Asia-Pacific Division, the Singapore Adventist Conference (SAC).
In the Adventist church’s organizational structure, a local conference, or local field/mission, is made up of a number of local churches in a state, province, or territory. A union conference, or union field/mission, is made up of conferences or fields within a larger territory (often a grouping of states or a whole country).
The focus of SEUM is to reach out to the Buddhists and the Hindu people in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. MAUM will focus on winning the hearts of Muslim people in Malaysia and Brunei. SAC will witness to the wealthy seculars in Singapore, reported the SSD article.
An SSD spokesperson dispelled the notion of any tension or infighting within SAUM. “There is a good relationship among the leaders of the three different organizations until now,” said the SSD spokesperson to Adventist Today via Facebook Messenger.
At the dissolution ceremony on Dec. 13, 2021, Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference, noted there would be challenges ahead with reorganization and recalibration of administrative activities, reported Adventist News Network.
Before the Southeast Asia Union Mission was split up, its headquarters was located in Singapore, even though this area had the fewest churches and had the least membership: eight churches and 3,186 members as of June 30, 2021, according to the Adventist Yearbook. Singapore does, however, have some of the highest real estate prices in the world, according to Statista.
“There was no disagreement about distribution of money,” said the SSD spokesperson. “But the leadership acknowledged that it is quite a challenge maintaining the union headquarters in Singapore, as it is very expensive.”
In the video, Chuenjit noted the split would be cost-effective, as the two new unions’ headquarters would be moved to Thailand and Malaysia, respectively, “thus dipping down the burdens of operation and administrative expenses.”
SEUM’s new headquarters sit right next to Asia Pacific International University. New headquarters for MAUM have not yet been announced.
“We truly believe that God has led and endorsed the decision,” said Chuenjit in the 2021 video.
(Photo: The Southeastern Asia Union Mission (SEUM) inaugurated its new headquarters next to Asia Pacific International University in Muak Lek, Thailand, on March 29, 2022. Photo by Mamerto Guingguing II via the Southern Asia-Pacific Division website.)