October 13, 2015: Much of the time at the annual meeting of the governing body of the Adventist denomination is devoted to reports from departments, institutions, projects and coordinating units of the global organization. This is the primary method through which the members of the General Conference executive committee do the group’s duty of oversight.
Many reports were presented yesterday and today, and there will be more tomorrow. The Family Ministries Department outlined what is being done around the world to support strong marriages and parenting. The Ellen G. White Estate announced that new center is being opened in Brazil with a duplicate set of manuscript materials to bring these closer to researchers there. There are about three dozen of these reports all together and committee members can easily go home with many pounds of materials, assuming their airline allows it.
The education institutions affiliated with the Adventist denomination were reviewed Monday with Dr. Ella Simmons, the top-ranking woman among Adventist leaders, in the chair as a GC vice president. She introduce Dr. Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director of the Education Department. It is fitting that women hold top positions in Adventist education because most of the faith’s educators around the world are women. Both Simmons and Beardsley-Hardy are veteran college administrators.
Schools have been an integral part of the denomination from its very beginnings, noted Dr. Neils-Erik Andreasen, who recently announced his retirement as president of Andrews University in Michigan. There are now 114 colleges and universities operated by the denomination around the world, yet only five percent of Adventist youth are enrolled in those schools.
Campus ministries at secular institutions are very important. There are many Adventist student groups at these schools who would like to establish centers on those campuses. This reality has evidently caught the attention of the denomination’s top “be held soon to consider how to expand this type of ministry.
Adventist education at all levels has four priorities, reported Beardsley-Hardy: passing on the Adventist mission and identity to new generations, providing access to students, teachers who are mission-focused and strengthening leadership in boards and administrators. “Education is a redemptive endeavor,” she stated.
Two area of great need in the Adventist mission are the massive urban populations where there is little Adventist presence and the “10/40 window,” a region in the Middle East and Asia where there are few Christians as well as very few Adventists. “Outside the 10/40 window there are four times the number of Adventist hospitals as inside it,” reported Dr. David Trim, GC director of research. “Twenty-five times as many media ministries, ten times as many orphanages and five times as many schools.”
There are now 35 megacities on the globe, each with more than 30 million inhabitants. The largest are Tokyo (Japan), Jakarta (Indonesia) and Shanghai (China), each with a relative handful of Adventist churches. A key mission goal for Adventists is to establish “centers of influence” in these cities such as clinics, cafes, health expos, exercise clubs, community gardens, health education programs, etc. This approach faces many challenges, especially in countries where religious opposition and local laws provide blockages. In fact, the meeting took time out on Tuesday when a member requested special prayer for protection from the threats of Boko Haram terrorists in Kenya where seven Adventists have already been killed.
A report on the International Religious Liberty Association was presented by Dr. Ganoune Diop, a member of the denomination’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department staff. “Religious freedom is central to all human rights,” he said, restating a long-held Adventist position. “Freedom of conscience is the most intimate of freedoms. It is a spiritual endowment that contributes to what it means to be human.”