by AT New Team
Pastors from the South England Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church met on the campus of Newbold College April 18 to discuss outreach among the ethnic majority in the United Kingdom and the postmodern context of their ministry. Dr. Miroslav Pujic, director of ministry to post moderns for the Trans-European Division of the denomination, sketched some key aspects of how a postmodern mindset operates and listed several challenges for the Adventist Church’s conventional evangelistic methods. He noted that a postmodern mindset responds better to a relational approach rather than a program. He urged the pastors to "always start the conversation with Jesus."
"The presentation brought out some wider principles as we try to reach a secular society," stated Southampton pastor Douglas McCormac. Pastor Sam Davies from the Bedford and Milton Keynes churches appreciated the presentation. "It helped me rethink my approach to the wider community."
The afternoon debate on reaching the majority population of the UK displayed a passion among the pastors to find methods to reach this culture. In small groups they discussed threats and opportunities, what has worked where, class differences and cultural diversity within the majority population, and how the Adventist denomination can engage this specific group.
Pastor Theo Rios of the English and Portuguese congregations in Peterborough, called for a better plan from Church administration. Other pastors agreed and stated that this work has to be done in a local context. Youth worker Steven Hulbert emphasized that it is by developing authentic friendships in the local community that churches grow. Pastor Kwesi Moore expressed his feeling that the day had given him an "awareness of how little we understand of the enormity of the task, and how important it is that we can share a deep love for people, regardless of cultural context, color or philosophical perspective."
Pastor Ian Sleeman convened the meeting. "I wanted to share my hopes and dreams for evangelizing the majority population. We have had the discussion many times before, but it was good to hear other pastors' frustration and perceived opportunities, and together, I hope we can find a way forward."
The Seventh-day Adventist congregations in the South England Conference have become almost entirely made up of immigrants from the Caribbean over the last several decades. There are very few new members from the majority white, English population of the country. The South England Conference includes 22 counties and four English Channel islands. It has 144 local congregations with 21,500 members among a population of nearly 28 million or less than one-tenth of one percent of the total population.
Reports from Kirsten Øster-Lundqvist at the South England Conference were included in this story.