by Bjorn Karlman

Sunday, November 1, was the first full day of business for the North American Division (NAD) Year-End Meetings. Thursday last week was a shorter day and the only thing scheduled for Friday was evening vespers.

  • After reports from Christian Record Services for the Blind and Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, NAD president G. Alexander Bryant welcomed General Conference (GC) president Ted Wilson to speak during the morning session.
  • Wilson was at the NAD division headquarters in person. He opened his remarks by saying the NAD auditorium looked like “the command center of a spacecraft,” with multiple screens and other tech set up for Zoom conferencing.
  • Wilson shared his conviction that the coronavirus did not spell the end of the world but that the end was coming close.
  • Wilson personally thanked Bryant for the emphasis on evangelism in the NAD. The GC president stressed (perhaps more than he has in recent years) that he was a member of a local church in the NAD. The relationship between the GC and the NAD seems to be softening with Bryant at the helm.
  • Wilson thanked the NAD for its efforts to work with the world church in its strategic plan for the next five years. The GC president seemed determined to turn a page on the tension between the GC and NAD that has defined the last several years.
  • Wilson promoted the I Will Go strategic plan of the Adventist Church. The main idea is mobilizing individual members to share the Adventist mission.
  • NAD Executive Secretary Kyoshin Ahn had the most high-profile report of the day, presenting in the morning session.
  • Ahn (new in his role after being promoted from NAD Undersecretary) said that with about 6% of the worldwide Adventist membership, the NAD has a membership of 1.2 million.
  • The division has 5,621 churches and 880 companies.
  • Ahn presented on the membership growth rate by union for 2019.
  • Membership has grown in the division by over 5,700 between 2018 and 2019, with most unions posting modest growth.
  • There was an almost 5% membership growth rate decline for the Columbia Union, a drop Ahn said was due to a membership audit.
  • Ahn presented data on COVID-19 online church attendance for practicing Christians in the United States. A mere 35% are still only attending their pre-COVID19 church and 14% have switched churches. Thirty-two percent have stopped attending church during COVID.
  • Church attendance among Adventists in the NAD during the pandemic is 40% of what it was pre-pandemic.
  • It is unclear how COVID will affect membership in the NAD.
  • The Ministerial Department presented what’s called the “Multiply Initiative,” which involved aggressive revitalization and growth goals for churches in the division.
  • The vision (presented as a stretch goal of sorts) is for 200,000+ baptisms by 2025, as well as over 1,000 church plants and more than 1,000 revitalized churches.
  • Reports from a number of different departments filled the afternoon.
  • Toward the end of the afternoon session, Bryant spoke to the challenge of systemic racism in the United States, as well as the tension created by the upcoming Election Day. He called current events in the United States “the makings of the end of time.”
  • He stressed the role of the Adventist Church to raise up a banner of hope. He said people will be looking for a place “to make sense of what is happening.”
  • Bryant stressed “the real peace and joy that Christ offers in a time of mayhem and chaos.”

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