I like the name Seventh-day Adventist. It speaks to me of “going home” once a week, then “going home” forever.
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THIS?
—Renee Ford, Charlotte, North Carolina
John Carroll lost his rubber shoe when he was baptized in the Ocala Seventh-day Adventist Church baptismal pool. Officiating pastor Dave Swinyar picked it up and made a saving comment about the retrieved shoe. In a half-aloud comment one member said it was better than losing his soul!
—Herb Pritchard, Ocala, Florida
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“The new year is just before us, and plans should be laid for earnest, persevering effort in the Master’s service. There is much to be done to advance the work of God.”
—Ellen G. White, Colporteur Ministry, p. 18
MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR
When husband and wife Salvador Cena and Luciana Talquenca were finishing their degrees at River Plate Adventist University in Argentina, they dreamed of being able to volunteer together in a foreign country. Now they are doing just that!
From January 2008 to December 2009, Salvador and Luciana have been serving at Helderberg College in South Africa. There they serve as assistant deans in the dormitories and help out during worship and other programs. They are enjoying their time of volunteer service, and through it they feel God has helped them grow in many ways. “Our experience here,” says Luciana, “has confirmed for me that I want to serve God for the rest of my life.”
After almost two years of service in South Africa, the couple heartily encourages others to try volunteering too. “You must have a volunteer experience,” Luciana says. “Your spiritual life will grow, and you will enjoy meeting new people and learning about a new culture. Just go! God can use you!”
If you would like to read stories about other Adventist volunteers around the world or learn about how you can participate in the volunteer program, go to www.adventistvolunteers.org.
—Courtesy of Adventist Volunteer Service
ANSWER: This photo was taken in the Philippines during the April 24-26, 2009, Adventist Youth camping event of the Namboongan Seventh-day Adventist Church at Pozorrubio, Pangasinan.
Please pray that God may help me to find money to pay for my four years of study. I count on your prayers, brothers and sisters.
There will be a fiftieth anniversary where I work. I have been nominated to give an opening prayer. Please pray for me that God gives me the right prayer.
Please pray for my spiritual life. I am going through financial problems, and that brings problems at home.
—Brian, South Africa
Please remember the victims of the Samoa tsunami, Sumatra earthquake, Philippine typhoon. It is sad to see thousands of people homeless, without food, water, and family.
I lost my court appeal and remain in prison. This is hard for me, but I am not shaken or disturbed in my faith as an Adventist. God is in control, and I believe He will allow me to continue preaching in prison. Pray for me as I am writing a petition to the president for pardon.
I have applied for the Etihad Cadet Pilot Program, and within a month they will do the assessment. I want to be an international pilot to help spread the Good News. I am really counting on your prayers for me to be a part of this training.
I want to thank you for all the prayers for the requests I sent. Please pray for my daughter who is not in the church. She has a lot of health problems. I am worried about her.
—Virginia, United States
Please pray for our family to stand firm in the faith. And pray that God will provide the economic means for my son to complete his theology course.
After reading in the Adventist World about the enthusiasm to join hands with the World Health Organization (“Paulsen Says Church’s Health Focus Can Help Heal the World,” Sept. 2009), I wondered about what’s happening “on the ground.” Many of our churches are still very effectively meeting community health needs all over the world, and doing it perhaps more effectively than any other group. Vegetarian cooking classes are growing in my country. Many lasting friendships grow out of the CHIP program (Coronary Health Improvement Project), as do baptisms.
I wonder if partnerships with United Nations institutions will achieve what our leaders are anticipating. Please give us some idea of what an official partnership with the WHO would involve. Could it minimize the effectiveness of church programs?
Kaikohe, New Zealand
Inspiration and Challenge
Thank you for collecting and publishing such inspirational and informational messages in our papers.
Jan Paulsen’s challenge in his presentation at Geneva (“Christ’s Healing in a Changing World,” Sept. 2009) is good for us all, especially the statement “But for Seventh-day Adventists the renewal of all things is not just a future event in history; it’s a process of renewal that begins now. Awaiting the ‘blessed hope’ is not a passive exercise, but something that demands action in the present.” That challenge is not only for those present at his lecture, but one that every Seventh-day Adventist everywhere needs to heed. Every day must begin with a renewal of our Christian walk and our Christian duty.
Chestertown, Maryland, United States
Give Me More
Praise the Lord! I am sending this lesson I saw and completed on Revelation, “Revelation’s End-time Conflict” (Sept. 2009). In my personal study I’ve been in this book. Please forward me any future studies, especially on Revelation.
Charles Livingston, Jr.
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
I was touched by the Adopt a Minister International articles (“From Revenge and Grenades to Saving Grace,” Aug. 2009), especially Marilynn Peeke’s “Giving Back” about Reva Lachica Moore. The article was great! My husband and I are trying to give back to others the blessings we have.
Thank you for the Adventist World magazine. We normally receive copies in the library of Adventist University Zurcher. We are praying for the continued publication of this magazine.
I was born in Ethiopia to a Jewish family. All my family are still Jewish, me too. I found your magazine Adventist World at an eye clinic in Ethiopia. I read some articles—really interesting, but I need some help. In our religion I read only the Old Testament. I have no idea about the New Testament. Let me know if you wish to teach me about it. If it is possible I will write many questions for you.
Daniel Tefera Mamo
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Gratitude and Thanks
I am so glad that it is now possible to read Adventist World in German on the Internet! What Adventist wouldn’t be interested in what is happening within our church worldwide? We have always received a few English copies for our church. However, most of our members do not know enough English, yet they would still like to know what’s going on.
Along with many others from my church I am looking forward to the upcoming issues.
To access Adventist World online in seven languages, go to www.adventistworld.org. To go directly to Adventist World in German, go to http://de.adventistworld.org.
I derive much pleasure from reading your articles because they remind me that I am a member of a larger community of faith. To read of other people’s challenges and experiences encourages me to live for Christ daily, knowing even the smallest things we take for granted can be used by God in very big ways.
I wish we could share your articles not just through e-mail, but through Facebook links.
From Kenya via e-mail
Links to Adventist World articles may be shared on Facebook.—Editors.
I express my gratitude that you publish a monthly magazine with a panorama of Adventist work in the world.
The Bible’s last book, Revelation, reveals earth’s final battle between good and evil. Worship is at the heart of this last conflict. Ultimately, there are only two sides in this war—those loyal to God and those who rebel against Him (Rev. 22:11, 12). These two groups are brought to the forefront in earth’s last war under the symbols of the seal of God and the mark of the beast. This month’s lesson will focus on the seal of God, a matter of no light importance. It is absolutely vital that we understand the significance of God’s eternal seal, and how to receive it.
1. What specific instruction did God give to Revelation’s sealing angels?
“Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads’” (Rev. 7:2, 3).
Before God’s judgments fall on this rebellious planet, God instructs the sealing angel to _______
the _________________________________of God in their ______________________________ .
This passage tells us three important facts about the seal of God: First, God holds back His final judgments until the sealing process is complete. Second, God’s servants, those totally loyal and faithful to Him, are the ones sealed. Third, the seal of God is placed in the forehead, a symbol of the mind.
2. Who accomplishes this important work of sealing?
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
The divine Being who accomplishes the sealing in our lives is the ________________________ of God.
The seal of God is not a visible seal placed on the forehead as a sign that we belong to God; it has to do with the Holy Spirit deepening our loyalty to Jesus so that we are so settled into His love and truth that nothing can move us.
3. How did the apostle Paul describe the function of God’s seal?
“Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’” (2 Tim. 2:19).
God’s foundation of truth will stand in the final crisis and, “The _____________________________
knows those who are _________________________________________________________.”
Today, as in ancient times, a legal seal authenticates a document. Seals identify who the document belongs to and whose authority stands behind it. God’s people are identified as standing totally committed to Him, “departing from iniquity” and lovingly obeying Him as a testimony of His saving grace to the world.
4. Where is this seal of obedience to God found?
“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (Isa. 8:16).
God’s seal is found in His________________________________________________________ .
A Christian’s love for God is always revealed in loving obedience to God’s law.
5. What is another name for a seal?
“And [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe” (Rom. 4:11).
Abraham received the __________________________________________ of circumcision by
which he demonstrated his loyalty to God. In the Bible a seal and a sign describe the same thing.
6. Does God have an eternal sign of worship that sets His people apart?
“Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Eze. 20:12).
God’s eternal sign of loyalty is the seventh-day Sabbath. Ancient seals contained three major elements: the name, title, and territory of the one placing the official, legal seal upon the document. God’s Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments that contains His name, “the Lord your God”; His title, Creator, “for in six days the Lord made”; and His territory, “the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” (see Exodus 20:8-11). The seventh-day Sabbath is God’s eternal sign of last-day loyalty. It is the outward symbol of an inner, living faith. At a time of enormous crises and persecution, the Holy Spirit will strengthen God’s faithful children to live lives of godly obedience.
7. What final appeal does God make to all just before His return?
“Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Rev. 14:7).
God’s final appeal is a call to worship God as the_____________________________________
“of heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
The seventh-day Sabbath is God’s eternal seal of His creative authority. In earth’s last hour it will become the visible sign of our loyalty to Him. Worshiping the Creator on Sabbath at a time of economic boycott and persecution will reveal our dedication to our Lord and to His truth. It will demonstrate that the Holy Spirit has sealed His truth in our hearts and our love for Jesus Christ is so deep, nothing will move us.
Next month we will complete this series on Revelation with the Bible study, “Revelation’s Eternal Reward.”
Allow me to deal with the contextual issue present in Daniel 1:3-21, and in the process I’ll answer your specific question.
The fall of the kingdom of Judah and the expatriation of many Israelites to Babylon exposed their faith to new challenges. They were in a land with a different culture and with radically different religious convictions, making it difficult for them to practice their religious faith.
1.Cultural Assimilation: The Babylonian king’s intent was to slowly shift the loyalty of the young Hebrews from their God to his gods, from Jerusalem to Babylon. That was the goal of the professional and psychological components of their training program.
First, their sense of self-worth was enhanced by tak-ing them to the royal palace, where they were part of the intellectual elite. This could easily have created in them a sense of acceptance in a foreign land and gratitude to the king for trusting them.
Second, they were to be trained in the languages and literature of Babylon. Daniel may already have spoken several languages, but he would have had to learn at least Aramaic and Akkadian in order to communicate with others and read the literature that dealt with matters of science (e.g., mathe-matics, astronomy), music, and religion (e.g., mythology, divination, astrology), and be indoctrinated into the Babylonian worldview. The rest of the book of Daniel demonstrates that the indoctrination failed.
Third, cultural assimilation began with changing their identity by giving them names that included the names of Babylonian deities (Dan. 1:7). Their personal commitment to the Lord was threatened. Interestingly, the Hebrew spelling of the Babylonian names appears to have intentionally corrupted the original names, thus showing their resistance to cultural and religious assimilation.
2. Food Provision: The king determined the diet of Daniel and his friends. This would’ve been considered a privilege and part of the benefits of studying at the University of Babylon. The food was supplied by the king. We know that Babylonian kings not only provided daily rations to some of their officers but also housing facilities. The biblical text seems to suggest that the food given to Daniel and his friends was a portion of the food prepared for the king himself, the best Babylon had to offer. The king’s main interest would have been to assure that they looked well and excelled in their training.
But looking at this decision from a cultural point of view, we realize that the king’s intention was deeper: food determines identity; what we eat reveals our culture, even our religious convictions. The emphasis on food was part of the cultural and religious attempt to assimilate the Hebrews into Babylonian religion and culture.
3. Rejecting Cultural Transformation: Daniel “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (verse 8, NIV). “Resolved” is the translation of the Hebrew phrase “place in his heart.” Daniel’s will and rationality were involved in this decision, probably based on the fact that the king’s food was offered to his gods before being brought to Daniel’s table. Most probably, this food was not prepared according to the biblical mandate (Lev. 17:10) and would have included unclean meats. These by themselves would have been valid reasons to reject the king’s food. But the fact that Daniel elected on this occasion to practice a vegetarian diet suggests a deeper issue. The king had taken upon himself to “assign” [yeman] them their food. The verbal form used here is employed in the Old Testament only for the activity of God (e.g., Ps. 16:5; 61:8; Jonah 2:1), suggesting that the king was taking upon himself a divine prerogative. For Daniel only the Lord could determine what he would eat. In that setting he went back to the original diet that excluded meat (Gen. 1:29; 3:18) and helped him be obedient to the Lord. And the Lord blessed his effort to serve Him. When he was in charge of his own diet he followed the levitical regulations (Dan. 10:3).
The threat of cultural assimilation is still with us. Like Daniel, we should resist it and stand by the values, principles, and teachings of God’s Word.
Embracing the future means embracing these challenges.
By Jan Paulsen
The status quo can be a wonderfully comfortable “place” to occupy. It has security of routine, the safety of the familiar, the ease of recycled thinking and well-worn methods.
In Scripture, though, I see a faith that is fundamentally at odds with “what is.” I see men and women dissatisfied with the familiar—people who pushed into the deep waters of faith because they were not content with what was merely “routine.” I see a Savior who calls us to faithfulness—a faithfulness that does not necessarily lead toward comfortable or predictable paths.
A few thoughts have crystallized in my mind in recent weeks as we prepare to leave 2009 behind and step into a new year. It’s a list that’s naturally subjective, and by no means definitive. But it represents areas of our spiritual journey that, if left untended, will naturally succumb to the pull of the status quo.
Seventh-day Adventists can’t afford to ignore:
Are we consciously taking charge of the choices that shape our daily lives? Do we have a clear sense of our own values? Do we live deliberately? Do we own our choices?
Every decision we make contributes to the shape of our character and the direction of our lives. It’s a process that happens slowly, incrementally, often unconsciously. But it does happen.
We can’t sidestep ownership of our choices. If we try, we begin to find ourselves at the mercy of circumstances; we feel trapped; we find other people making choices on our behalf. In the spiritual realm it may lead to unhealthy discipleship—we become dependent on another person, rather than our Lord, to define our beliefs and nurture our spirituality.
When I look back at my own life, I see choices that were certainly far from perfect—choices that at best were foolish. It’s a tribute to God’s patience and compassion that He brought me through in spite of myself. We don’t have to make perfect choices, but we must acknowledge that they’re ours to make.
We can’t afford to ignore the power of our choices.
2. The Clock
Time is passing. We are inexorably moving toward the climax of history—the return of our Lord. But time has a habit of slipping quietly by. We become desensitized. We pacify ourselves with the thought that “this is how it’s been for ever so long; tomorrow will continue on just as today” (see 2 Peter 3:4). We slide into complacency. “I’m well-intentioned, I come from a good Adventist home, my culture and behavior are those of a ‘good Adventist.’”
The stark reality is this: if we aren’t serious about the passing of time, if the second coming of Christ isn’t a living reality for us, then we’ll fall asleep. We’ll slide into a spiritual coma.
Does this mean we have to live in a state of anxiety or paranoia? No. It simply means being alert to the passage of time and the closeness of Christ’s return. It means allowing this reality to shape our daily choices—large and small.
We can’t afford to ignore the rapidly closing door of history.
3. Selfless Thinking
We are a community of believers—not a loose collection of individuals or congregations who each do “what seems right in their own eyes.” We hold together. We support one another. We give personnel and finances to one another. We pray for one another. We defer to one another. When one part of the body struggles with a problem, we talk it over as members of the same family (1 Cor. 12:26).
But if we don’t deliberately cultivate an attitude of “concern for the other,” we’ll drift instead into “concern for me first.” Whether it’s individuals, congregations, or church leaders, some are more open to what they can receive from the larger church than what they can give back. There are others who say, “You have nothing to teach us.”
We can’t afford to let go of the sacred bonds of family. We can’t afford to give up our vision for mission, which looks to the world beyond our own community.
We can’t afford to ignore our immense need for one another.
4. A Culture of Inclusion
We can’t afford to walk into the future with segments of our faith community—whether young people, women, cultural or ethnic groups—feeling that they don’t have a meaningful or representative role in the life of the church. We need to attend to this. Why does the reality, or even the impression, of exclusion exist? Are we affirming and nurturing the gifts of all our members? Do some lack a proper representative role because somewhere in the election processes they were left out? If we fail to address this we’ll undermine our credibility, stunt our capacity for mission, and check our growth.
We can’t afford to ignore the abilities and spiritual gifts God gives all His children.
Some continually look back with nostalgia; they see all that belongs to yesterday as inviolable, and the past becomes sacred for its own sake.
But the world we live in refuses to stand still. Life, both inside and outside the church, is dynamic. It’s in constant motion. As a church, we can’t afford to live inside a comfortable cocoon of “what was.” We can’t afford to be “one-idea” people, stereotyped in our manner of working (see Gospel Workers, p. 119).
Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting we change who we are. Far from it! Our history and heritage hold tremendous meaning for us—we see God’s hand at each turn of the way. Our doctrines and shared values provide us a powerful anchor and global identity.
Think for a moment about yourself as an individual. You have your own history, personality, and values. You wake up each morning in the same house, eat the same breakfast, and head out the same door. But each day is different; new challenges stretch you in unexpected ways and demand creative responses. But your basic personality—your core identity—isn’t altered.
So it is with the church. We need to be able to react, to adjust our structure, our procedures, and our methods of relating to society. Just repeating what we’ve always done, simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it, is a one-way road to ineffectiveness.
We can’t afford to ignore change.
A Meaningful Life
How should we face the coming year? I hope we’ll live deliberately—choosing our path with integrity and with an eye to the passing of time. I hope we’ll choose community over individualism, affirming what each of us brings to the body of Christ. Above all, I hope, as individuals and as a church, we’ll refuse to be satisfied with the status quo.
Jan Paulsen is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Called by some “the Switzerland of Central America,” Costa Rica is a beautiful nation sandwiched between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. This nation has two coastlines, with the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean on the east.
Costa Rica’s comparisons with Switzerland stem from the country’s rugged central mountains, its thriving tourism industry, relatively stable government and economy, low crime rate, and highly developed welfare system. In 1949 Costa Rica’s president abolished its military. Costa Rica still has no standing armed forces. The country has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the Western Hemisphere.
Spanish explorers were initially unsuccessful when they tried to colonize Costa Rica during the early 1500s because of local resistance, pirates, and unexpected environmental challenges. In 1563 they established the permanent settlement of Cartago in the central highlands. For the next 258 years Costa Rica was one of Spain’s many “new world” colonies in the Caribbean and Central and South America. In 1821 Costa Rica, along with several other colonies, jointly declared their independence. They formed a federation that lasted 17 years. In 1838 Costa Rica declared its unilateral independence, which it has maintained ever since.
Historically, Costa Rica’s rich natural resources and agricultural industry—predominantly coffee, bananas, beef, pineapple, and ornamental plants—have driven the country’s economy. While farming is still important to Costa Rica, a burgeoning tourist industry and technology manufacturing give this country a high standard of living. The country’s sandy beaches and tropical forests with immense flora and fauna draw crowds of tourists each year.
Adventists in Costa Rica
Spanish (official) and English
Roman Catholic, 70%; Protestant, 14%; other, 4%; none, 12%.
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
*General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 145th Annual Statistical Report
Adventism first came to Costa Rica around the turn of the last century when pioneer missionary F. J. Hutchins made frequent visits to Limón on Costa Rica’s eastern coast in his missionary schooner, theHerald. The first regular missionaries, a group of literature evangelists, arrived in 1902. A year later one of them, I. G. Knight, reported 10 baptisms in the Review and Herald and the organization of a church of 26 in a town just outside Limón. By 1928 the Adventist Church consisted of four churches and 148 members.
In 1921 the first primary school opened its doors in Limón. Six years later a secondary school started, which later become Central American Adventist University. Today there are two secondary schools in Costa Rica, one in Limón and one in San José, in addition to the university. The church in Costa Rica continues to be strong. In the last 10 years the church’s membership has more than doubled.
Costa Rica is one of the many countries that make up the Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This division is hosting “Follow the Bible” this month. “Follow the Bible” is an initiative sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world to stimulate a deeper interest in reading the Bible. The journey will climax at the opening session of the General Conference Session in Atlanta in June 2010.
Requests for more than 100,000 structures are pending.
By Elizabeth Lechleitner, Adventist News Network
The production of church-assembly kits is accelerating to help church infrastructure match membership in regions with soaring church growth, a Seventh-day Adventist businessman told Annual Council delegates during their October 2009 meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
The One-Day Church initiative is one of the tools Maranatha aims to tackle the more than 100,000 pending requests for permanent church structures around the world, said Garwin McNeilus, who helped develop the concept.
ASSEMBLY REQUIRED: An interior view of a container holding components for a One-Day Church. This container arrived at a site near Livingstone, Zambia. In August 2009, 1,700 new Seventh-day Adventist were baptized in a single day there.A joint venture of Adventist-Laymen’s Services and Industries and Maranatha Volunteers International, supporting ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the One-Day Church project is responsible for manufacturing some 3,000 church kits and shipping well over 1,000 to locations worldwide since its launch last year, said Maranatha president Don Noble.
But with 4,000 new Adventist congregations formed each year, according to the church’s Office of Adventist Mission, McNeilus and his production team are stepping up output.
The recent purchase of a steel-bending machine allows the team to complete more than seven times as many church kits per day than previously possible. The $650,000 form roller—acquired at a fraction of its worth at $38,000—can bend pieces of steel at 100 feet per minute to form beams for the structures.
As the name suggests, church kits—which fit in the back of a pickup truck—can be constructed in less than a day. The basic building is easily adjusted to suit a variety of culture and geographic areas, and the galvanized steel frame withstands termites, rust, heat, and Class-3 hurricanes, church leaders said at the project’s launch.
One-Day Church kits have been adapted for use as schools, dormitories, and housing for faculty and staff, McNeilus said, in some cases providing an entire campus. Citing the church’s membership gains of 1 million this year, he said such versatility would be vital in supporting education for new members’ children.
“Building these churches and schools is an endowment for the future,” he told delegates. “When I look at one of these buildings, I don’t see bricks and mortar, and I don’t see steel—I see people.”
COMING TOGETHER: A worker assembles part of a One-Day Church near Livingstone, Zambia.Reflecting on the project’s impact, Paul S. Ratsara, presi-dent of the church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region, called it a “godsend” for new membership. Mozambique, a country within the region, has received 250 church kits.
“Our region is growing so fast, and housing new believers has long been a challenge,” Ratsara said. “The timing for the One-Day Church project was ideal for us.”
Some of the new One-Day Churches will be constructed in and around Livingstone, Zambia, where 1,700 new members were baptized in a single day in August 2009. At one church site outside the city, land has already been graded for a new building that will replace the thatched-roof, open-sided structure currently employed.
According to an Internet Web site, www.onedaychurch.org, an estimated 200,000 Seventh-day Adventist congre-gations worldwide lack permanent meeting structures. The Web site contains information on the project and a way to make online donations in support of the effort.
—With additional reporting by Adventist World Staff.
Session Theme Song, Offering, New Study Bible Are Presented
Church unity and commitment to outreach were instrumental in decisions on a theme song and offering for 2010’s General Conference session, Seventh-day Adventist world church leaders said.
Meeting at church headquarters for annual business meetings, delegates moved to accept a new theme song for next summer’s General Conference session. Titled “Proclaim His Grace” and composed by Bruce Ashton, the song dovetails with the session theme: “Proclaiming God’s Grace.”
COUNTING NOTES: 2009 Annual Council delegates were among the first to hear the theme song chosen for next summer’s General Conference session.“Music is an instrument of unity,” said Williams Costa, Jr., a member of the music committee and an associate director of communication for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. “It’s a way to have everybody on the same page, praising God.”
Delegates also voted on an offering for next year’s session. To be collected in Adventist churches worldwide on January 30 and May 29, the offering will fund education, media, and literature outreach in a region historically known as the Silk Road. Because traditional evangelism is difficult in the region—which includes China, Central Asia, and the Middle East—the offering will help support Global Mission pioneers, family and health ministries, and humanitarian outreach.
Decisions about the session were among a variety of agenda items voted during Annual Council. Delegates also accepted rewording of the mission statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to better focus on the discipleship of members.
They added the phrase “make disciples of all people” and instruction on “discipling,” or “affirming the continued spiritual growth and development of all members,” to the statement.
Also on the docket was a presentation on the forthcoming Andrews Study Bible, which delegates moved to accept. Published at Andrews University Press, the Bible is designed to “enrich the serious, thoughtful study” of Scripture, said Niels-Erik Andreasen, president of Adventist-ownedAndrews University.
An international team of Seventh-day Adventist Bible scholars worked to make the study Bible “academically credible, theologically sound, and prac- tically useful,” Andreasen told delegates.
Expected to be available next year, the Andrews Study Bible will include a reference system linking many of the Bible’s themes, such as Sabbath observance and the Second Coming.
Seventh-day Adventist world church financial leaders will continue what they call a cautious and conservative approach to managing church funds in the wake of the global recession.
While a market recovery beginning in March and some economic indicators suggest the financial system is finally trending upward, the church should not base its budget on the assumption that the pattern will continue uninterrupted, world church treasurer Robert E. Lemon told Annual Council delegates on October 12, 2009.
Mission offerings have held steady since dropping early in the year, but tithe returns from North America—which account for 45 percent of the world church’s budget—continue to decrease, reflecting rising unemployment figures.
COUNTING CASH: Adventist world church treasurer Robert E. Lemon delivers the church’s financial report to delegates gathered at church headquarters for annual autumn business meetings on October 12, 2009.Because church financial officers are uncertain when tithes and offering rates might rise in United States dollar terms, the budget delegates approved for 2010 does not factor in assumed increases in tithes and offerings, as is typically the case, Lemon told delegates. It reflects a US$1.6 million decrease in tithes and offerings when compared to the 2009 budget, he said.
Church officers also voted to use $2.79 million from the church’s working capital to balance the 2010 appropriations budget.
Tithe to the world church’s headquarters for 2009, when compared to last year, dropped 3 percent, or $1.4 million, for North America and 9.7 percent, or $1.1 million, for the church’s other world regions as of August and July, respectively, Lemon reported. Tithes and offering rates are actually up in most of the church’s other regions in local currencies, but when converted to a stronger United States dollar, they show a decrease, he added.
Similarly, mission offerings for North America are down by 4.6 percent, or $700,000, with other church regions reflecting a $2 million, or 8.6 percent, decrease.
Much of the October 12 financial report focused on how the church’s investments—both in equity markets and in less volatile fixed income holdings—fared during the recent global downturn.
Most of the world church headquarters’ investments sustained the global financial downturn “fairly well,” Lemon said. For the period of January 1, 2008, through August 31 of 2009, church headquarters earned a net return of $2.8 million on its approximately $290 million in investments.
Had all the church headquarters-owned funds been placed in a savings account earning the typical interest rate of one half of a percent during the same period, rather than invested in the market, “we would be at the same place as we are now,” Lemon said.
By transferring more of its investments to fixed-income holdings, the church reduced its exposure to drastic market fluctuations, said associate treasurer Roy E. Ryan. Even if it means earning less interest, the church’s immediate goal is to protect its capital, he said.
While current market indicators are encouraging, the church should still exercise caution in budgeting and appropriating funds, Lemon said. If interest rates—currently at historic lows—increase, the church should expect to see short-term negative effects on the value of its fixed-income investments, he explained.
Despite the current economic situation, the world church’s headquarters is operating at $2 million below its $37-million budget due to continued cutbacks, including wage and hiring freezes and travel restrictions, Lemon said. Such “judicial” use of funds positions the church to maintain its appropriations to world regions and avoid layoffs even amid a “turbulent” economy, he said.
During the financial report, delegates also heard an update on the so-called “extraordinary tithe,” a one-time donation of about $102 million to the Adventist Church two years ago. Investment activity during the past two years added almost $5 million to the principal, financial officers said. Of the almost $80 million allocated, less than half is distributed, said church undertreasurer Juan Prestol, stressing that the church is applying the funds “cautiously.” Leaders said $14.7 million is reserved for future allocations,.
World church associate treasurer George Egwakhe updated delegates on progress made on a new extension to the world church headquarters that will house a studio and office and storage space for the church’s official television network, Hope Channel. Of the $5.1 million budgeted for the project, $2.6 million has been spent to complete 52 percent of the project. Leaders said they expect production in the new building to begin in January 2010.
Also on October 12, delegates reviewed church appropriations, agreeing to distribute more funds during the next five years to unentered areas and church institutions that support outreach.
Delegates also added to the budget several increases in appropriations for various church entities and institutions around the world. Delegates agreed to use $350,000 to help finance Global Mission employees’ salaries. They also voted to approve a one-time appropriation of $150,000 to aid the Adventist University of Africa in meeting requirements for its charter.
Responding to the report, delegates seemed to echo Lemon and other church financial officers’ attitude of cautious optimism.
—Reported by Elizabeth Lechleitner, Adventist News Network