by Monte Sahlin

From ANN, November 4, 2014

Late Monday afternoon (November 3), following a spirited debate, the governing body of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in North America voted to move its office out of the complex it has shared with the denomination's General Conference (GC) since the 1980s. By a vote of 126 to 65 the North American Division (NAD) executive committee accepted the recommendation of NAD leaders to move to new facilities in the Washington DC metropolitan area and proceed with the relocation process.

Tom Evans, NAD treasurer, had earlier presented a report comparing moving expenses and cost recovery if the NAD headquarters moved to Dallas, Denver, Atlanta or remained in Washington. The report, was prepared by JLL, a consulting firm that specializes in corporate real estate and corporate relocations. The report led to the recommendation that the office remain in the Washington area.

In addition to the financial data, Pastor Dan Jackson, NAD president, listed ten non-financial considerations for the recommendation. These included the access to qualified personnel, airports, churches and schools for employees and their families. The number one reason for the move was self-determination.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America has a need to have its own unique message and strategies that are relevant and work in our territory,” said Jackson. “While the Adventist movement began in North America, we are among the youngest divisions in the church, and it’s time that we grow up and leave our parent’s house.”

The world governing body at a meeting two weeks earlier had voted to support the concept and to provide $3 million to assist with the move. “This should never be treated as an initiative to get them out of the building. Quite the opposite,” said Pastor Ted Wilson, GC president. Robert Lemon, GC treasurer, echoed Wilson's sentiments. He stated that while the GC would welcome the NAD remaining in the building, it fully supports the decision to relocate and establish its own identity.

“This move does not represent any distancing of mission or purpose from that of the General Conference,” Lemon said. “The North American Division has always been and continues to be the backbone of support, both financially and missionally for the worldwide work of the Church.”

The denomination's North American organization has discussed setting up an office separate from the GC offices since it was first set up in 1985. In the 1990s study was given to establishing an office in Lincoln, Nebraska, when the Mid-America Union Conference sold its office there.

Until the 1980s, the NAD was simply the "home field" of the GC and the two organizations were the same. As the GC became more and more international in character, a growing need emerged for the Adventist movement in North America to develop its own structure and character. There are three nations in the NAD and Canada and Bermuda each have a national church organization; the union conference in Canada and a local conference in Bermuda. The United States is the country most in need of a national church structure, a role played by the GC for much of the early history of the Adventist faith.

Along with the identification of a publishing house and Oakwood University as NAD institutions in recent months, the establishment of a separate office clearly indicates the maturing of an Adventist denominational structure in the U.S. These developments may open the way for the denomination to deal more effectively with key issues in North America such as an up-to-date media strategy, strengthening the community impact of its congregations, engaging new generations, managing cultural diversity and ending gender discrimination in the ordained clergy.