by Bjorn Karlman  |  29 October 2020  |

Unsurprisingly, leadership decided it would be safest to hold the 2020 North American Division (NAD) Year-End Meetings virtually. Unlike the General Conference Annual Council earlier this month though, top brass opted to physically be at the NAD headquarters for the meetings, they weren’t going to Zoom from home.

  • The NAD made a point of stressing this physical group is masked, temperature-checked and contact checked.
  • The group in the NAD auditorium consists of the officers — the president, secretary and treasurer of the division sitting on a platform and chairing the meetings.
  • There’s also a team from secretariat facilitating the programming (virtual voting, virtual discussion, etc.) as well as the IT department and a communication media team.
  • Plexiglas shields separate everyone sitting in the room, we’ve been assured there’s an abundance of hand sanitizer going around and everyone is social distancing. Sounds festive.
  • The rest of the Executive Committee is joining by Zoom and there’s a livestream of the meetings for anyone else who wants to follow the action curled up with some popcorn and an electric blanket turned to medium. (If you don’t have time for that you always have the highly informative and entertaining reports from your favorite source of accessible, independent Adventist journalism😁)
  • In today’s business meeting, recently-elected NAD President G. Alexander Bryant made sure to highlight the resourceful ways educators, clergy and members had run ministries across the division, despite COVID-19 constraints.
  • Some of this creativity was showcased in video updates from each union in the NAD, showing how different regions had tackled the highs and lows of operating under the new normal.
  • THE takeaway from the first day’s business session was the nomination and election of Elden Ramirez (who had been serving as Montana Conference President) to the position of NAD Undersecretary.
  • Ramirez was elected as NAD Undersecretary by a solid majority of 209 “yes” to 19 “no” votes.
  • The NAD Undersecretary role was, until recently, held by Kyoshin Ahn, who was recently elected as NAD Executive Secretary. Ahn took the place of Bryant who transitioned from serving as NAD Executive Secretary to being elected NAD President as Dan Jackson retired over the summer.
  • The top officers of the NAD now include someone from each of the major ethnic groups in the Adventist membership and the general population; a president who is African American, an executive secretary who is Asian, a treasurer who is Caucasian and an undersecretary who is Hispanic.
  • Bryant’s president’s report focused on the big picture of achievements over the last five years. Despite COVID, the NAD had seen 150,000 baptisms and 900 new church plants in the 2015-2020 period. Bryant acknowledged that membership growth is incremental (baptisms average about 30,000 per year).
  • Other 2015-2020 highlights: tithe had reached the $1 billion-per-year mark and the NAD finally moved out of the (dated and somewhat depressing) General Conference headquarters, into a pretty snazzy facility of its own.
  • Bryant noted virtual workarounds for COVID-19 had resulted in several successes including a high turnout for the online Leaders Convention and Society of Adventist Communicators Conference this year.
  • Almost a hundred women pastors were also added across the division in the five-year period.
  • Tithe parity (a process in which the percentage of NAD tithe going to the GC is reduced to be in line with the percentage contributed from other divisions) was voted and the process has started to take effect.
  • The changes in NAD leadership look like they are only the tip of the iceberg. Bryant shared that 40% of NAD officers are eligible for retirement and that this percentage grows to 61% in the next five years. Might this be an opportunity to prune a top-heavy denominational structure?
  • The NAD president stressed the Adventist faith was entering a new era in the United States, Canada and Bermuda; “Things will never go back to the way it was before COVID-19.” He challenged the denomination to find new ways to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ.
  • Bryant also touched on a branding opportunity: “What if we were known as the denomination that cares about you?”
  • He added an exhortation: “Let’s begin asking God for the impossible!”

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