The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hungary and a breakaway group of hundreds of former Adventists have agreed to put aside past grievances and work toward healing a 40-year schism.
Adventists in Hungary Reconcile After 40 Years
By Andrew McChesney
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hungary and a breakaway group of hundreds of former Adventists have agreed to put aside past grievances and work toward healing a 40-year schism.
The Hungarian church split in 1975 amid a protest by young pastors and other members over local church leaders’ collaboration with the Council of Free Churches, a body formed to represent the common interests of small Protestant denominations that later become a tool of the Communist state.
Tamás Ócsai, president of the Hungarian Union Conference, signed a document titled “Joint Declaration on Settling the Past and Building a Common Future” with János Cserbik, leader of KERAK, as the splinter group is known, at a ceremony.
“I am very pleased that this 40-year rift is coming to an end for most of the people,” said Benjamin D. Schoun, a general vice president of the Adventist world church, who played a key role in bringing the two sides toward reconciliation.
“It is a testimony to the use of biblical methods for reconciliation and the willingness on the part of both sides to step out toward each other,” Schoun said in an interview. “They still have many details to work out, and we should continue to pray for this initiative.”
The Adventist Church in Hungary has 4,629 members worshipping in 104 churches, while KERAK has 1,500 to 1,800 members. Local church leaders anticipate that about 600 members will return this summer, while 400 do not intend to come back and the rest are open to the idea.
The long-waited reconciliation document is seen as a first step toward reuniting the two sides. In reaching the agreement, the Adventist Church acknowledged that it had expelled the dissenting group of 518 believers largely without merit in 1975.
“After much turmoil, which rocked the church to the core, the group was disfellowshipped, mostly without a valid biblical reason,” the Adventist Church’s Trans-European Division, which includes Hungary, said in a statement.
The disfellowshipped believers first organized as an underground church in the then- Soviet bloc country but later emerged as the official denomination KERAK, or Christian Adventist Community.
After the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989, Adventist leaders from all levels of the church sought to reunite the Hungarian church, but to no avail. Serious talks about reunification ceased around 2000. But in 2011 a new generation of KERAK leaders initiated a series of talks.
The April 23 accord signals a turning point, said Trans-European Division president Raafat Kamal. “Over the past two years I personally witnessed firsthand genuine expressions of reconciliation by members and leaders alike,” he said. “Christ is coming soon, and He is uniting our Adventist believers in Hungary to be of one mind in focusing on the mission to be the salt and light.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concerns about growing religious intolerance worldwide during a private meeting with Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson, and he invited the Seventh-day Adventist Church to work with the U.N. in helping people.
Adventist Leader Meets U.N. Chief
By Andrew McChesney
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concerns about growing religious intolerance worldwide during a private meeting with Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson, and he invited the Seventh-day Adventist Church to work with the U.N. in helping people.COOPERATION WITHOUT COMPROMISE: UN chief Ban Ki-moon meets with Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson on April 6 at the United Nations in New York.
Wilson, the first Adventist Church president to meet with a U.N. chief, noted that the church has long supported religious liberty and said it was willing to team up on initiatives that followed Christ’s ministry of helping people physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
Ban met with Wilson; John Graz, director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department; and Graz’s associate Ganoune Diop on April 6 for a 45-minute meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York.
The meeting was arranged with the personal involvement of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, dean of the U.N. undersecretaries-general and a friend of Seventh-day Adventists, who regularly corresponded with Diop to make the meeting a reality.
“It was a real privilege to meet the secretary-general and to hear his appeal for assistance for humanity,” Wilson told Adventist World.
“Seventh-day Adventists should be ready to witness for the Lord anywhere we go and to testify of God’s blessing in our lives and what we can do in His name,” he said. “The world is waiting for this type of heaven-inspired testimony with clear answers to today’s problems.”
Ban spoke about global issues such as poverty and a lack of education before voicing his concern about religious intolerance. He also expressed appreciation for the Adventist Church’s work in promoting religious liberty as well as education, health, and humanitarian aid through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. ADRA has worked with the U.N. in assisting refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Hundreds of thousands of Adventist young people shared Jesus’ love in 132 countries for Global Youth Day, setting a new record that surpassed organizers’ expectations.
Records Broken as Young People “Are the Sermon”
By Andrew McChesney
Hundreds of thousands of Adventist young people shared Jesus’ love in 132 countries for Global Youth Day, setting a new record that surpassed organizers’ expectations.FOOD FOR ALL: Adventist young people share pizza with those who are homeless as part of Global Youth Day in Monterrey, Mexico.
Gilbert Cangy, Youth Ministries Department director for the Seventh-day Adventist world church, declared the third annual event a big success.
“I daresay today was a huge moment for the church and a huge moment for youth ministry,” Cangy said by telephone on Saturday night, March 21. “It was a pivotal moment. It proved once again that if you create an environment where young people can be involved, they will always surpass your expectations.”
Young people were challenged on Global Youth Day to “become Jesus’ hands and feet” by finding ways to show His love to others. Among other things, young people sang, visited hospitals, and swapped fruit for cigarettes. The motto for Global Youth Day was “Be the Sermon.”
Activities were held in 132 of the world’s 192 countries as recognized by the United Nations, and 73 percent of participants were young people between the ages of 13 and 34, said Cangy, the organizer of the event. He noted that this represented a critical age group that has disengaged from the church in large numbers in recent years.
“Global Youth Day goes against this trend,” he said. “It shows that our youth are willing to engage in the mission of the church if we are willing to give them leadership. I am very proud of our young people.”
It may never be known exactly how many people participated in Global Youth Day, but metrics from Google and on social media indicate that the number is up from the previous two years. Egypt, for example, was the only country in the Middle East and North Africa to host activities last year, but this year it was joined by Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, Cangy said.
In another first, footage from the event was live-streamed online and on the church’s Hope Channel from 19 uplink sites over 24 hours.
Virgil R. Bakulu tweeted from Manado, Indonesia, that his group had successfully given away fruit in exchange for packs of cigarettes. At a police station in South Africa, young people expressed their gratitude to officers by singing “Amazing Grace.”
Youth in India passed out food to homeless children, and a group in Botswana waved at passersby.
Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, encouraged youth to go beyond Global Youth Day and be a sermon every day until Jesus’ return. Wilson, who has participated in every annual youth day, spoke from a gathering of 5,000 youth in Colombia.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has come a long way from the 60-minute Let’s Talk television program in the 2000s, when the Adventist Church president took questions from young people. “Now we have a 24-hour program from 19 locations in the world, involving the youth not just in the discussion but in the planning and recording,” said André Brink, associate communication director for the Adventist Church, who videotaped segments for Let’s Talk and prepared a video feature on the 2015 event. “This is truly amazing.”
Nearly 6,200 people received $20 million in free Adventist health care at a Texas stadium, church leaders said, recounting behind-the-scenes stories about an overworked X-ray machine and an unexpected doctor’s referral.
Surprises Emerge From San Antonio
By Andrew McChesney
Nearly 6,200 people received $20 million in free Adventist health care at a Texas stadium, church leaders said, recounting behind-the-scenes stories about an overworked X-ray machine and an unexpected doctor’s referral.FULL COVERAGE: Evangelist Mark Finley prays with patient Marcus Daniel after Dr. Shaun Rusk (left) completed dental work at the free clinic in San Antonio.
Duane McKey, vice president for evangelism at the church’s Southwestern Union Conference, a cosponsor of the free clinic in San Antonio’s Alamodome stadium, said an X-ray machine typically makes 45 X-rays in two and a half days, but the machine donated by GE spat out a total of 338 X-rays during the event.
“The machine got so hot that it stopped working,” he told the Spring Meeting of church leaders at General Conference headquarters. “But the technician said, ‘I can fix it,’ and he cranked up the fan and got it working again."
McKey said a patient who got an operation worth $25,000 at a nearby Adventist hospital told how she had broken the news about her plans to receive the free surgery to her doctor. The doctor had expressed disbelief that anyone would provide her with such an expensive operation at no cost, so she had presented him with a flyer about the event.
Sometime later the doctor found himself speaking with another patient who urgently required an operation but didn’t have the insurance to cover the bill. “How am I going to come up with the $25,000?” she asked. The doctor handed her the flyer for the free clinic.
Evangelist Mark Finley joined McKey at the front of the auditorium to share a montage of local television news reports about the free clinic. He reminded the audience that the event had aimed to introduce San Antonio to the Seventh-day Adventist Church before thousands of Adventist believers arrived in July for the General Conference session in the Alamodome.
“The major news in that city was ‘Seventh-day Adventists … helping people,’ ” Finley said. “When we go for the General Conference session in that city, people will know who Seventh-day Adventists are.”WHOSOEVER WILL: Thousands of people wait in line for free Adventist healthcare before the opening of the Alamodome stadium in San Antonio, April 8.
More than 2,000 are baptized after a first major evangelistic series. By Andrew Mc Chesney, news editor, Adventist World
Thousands of people, many hugging each other and weeping with joy, thronged around a vast lake for a mass baptism that concluded the Adventist Church’s first major evangelistic series in Nicaragua.
Dozens of pastors wearing white shirts and ties baptized 1,884 people in the rippling waters of Lake Nicaragua in mid-March. Another 200 people who could not make it to the lake were baptized in local churches, bringing the total number of nationwide baptisms since October to 12,000.
“May this baptism bless our waters,” Julia Mena, mayor of the nearby city of Granada, told the crowd. Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson, who stood beside the mayor, said it was a thrilling sight. “It was a privilege to be present at such an impressive scene,” he said.
Dozens of weddings also took place on the shore. Many Nicaraguans live in common-law marriages and have children, but never legally tie the knot. So lawyers donated their time to marry those people in civil ceremonies at the lake before they were baptized. Under Nicaraguan law, a couple cannot be legally married by a pastor. Among the people baptized was a woman whose son, an Adventist pastor, had prayed for 15 years for her to accept Jesus, church leaders said. The mother, in her 50s, made her decision at the lake and frantically began to search the crowd for her son so she could seal her commitment that day. Her son began crying when he heard the news. The pair hugged tightly, not wanting to let the other go. The son later baptized his mother.
The baptisms capped a year-long evangelistic effort that began with the establishment of about 5,000 small groups that studied healthy lifestyles in Nicaragua and neighboring Costa Rica. The groups later studied the Bible, and participants were invited to attend local evangelistic meetings. Evangelist Mark Finley wrapped up the initiative with four days of meetings to nightly crowds of more than 3,000 people in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. The Adventist Church had 203,698 members in Nicaragua and Costa Rica as of December 2014. Major baptisms are also taking place elsewhere in the region, with 1,500 in El Salvador in mid-March, and 2,530 in Panama between January and mid-March.
Back in Nicaragua, Finley said local administrators and church members were dedicated to the mission of the church, and their enthusiasm rubbed off on the people who attended his meetings. “When public transportation did not run last Friday night, scores walked to the meetings,” he said. “One of our elders rented six taxis at great personal expense to bring Bible study interests to the meetings. Others took buses all night to attend our baptism. What mattered to so many of these Adventist believers was the salvation of their family, friends, neighbors, and working associates, and they were willing to make personal sacrifices to accomplish that dream.” n
Churches Open at Fastest Rate in History Church membership nears 18.5 million.
An Adventist church being opened in November 2014 in Guatemala, where 144 new churches were built last year.
Seventh-day Adventist churches are springing up around the world at the fastest rate in the denomination’s 152-year history. On average, a new building opens its doors to worshippers every 3.58 hours. A record 2,446 new churches opened last year, helping fuel the largest single-year increase in membership and bringing total membership to nearly 18.5 million. Gary Krause, director of Adventist Mission, whose missionaries play a key role in opening new churches, praised God for the growth and called for the Adventist Church to push ahead boldly in its mission to proclaim Jesus’ soon coming. “These statistics suggest that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is heading in the right direction in its mission and must keep that focus,” Krause said. The 2,446 new churches that opened last year is 381 higher than 2013, and tops the previous record of 2,416 churches in 2002, said David Trim, director of the Adventist Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. The Adventist Church ended 2014—the tenth consecutive year in which more than 2,000 churches were organized—with a total of 78,810 churches, compared with 57,850 a decade earlier. Trim said the growth in churches was, from all evidence, an important but often overlooked part of the explanation for the growth in overall church membership. Newly compiled figures from his office indicate that a record 1,167,796 people joined the Adventist Church last year, surpassing the 1,091,222 people who joined in 2013 and the previous record of 1,139,000 in 2011. — Andrew McChesney, Adventist World
A Lomé prison inmate being baptized in the new baptistery.
Hope Channel in French The Adventist Church will launch its first round-the-clock television channel for the French-speaking world thanks to an ambitious plan by its Inter-American Division to start three new satellite channels. The three new channels—Hope Channel Français, Hope Channel Américas, and Hope Channel Caribbean—are expected to launch later this year in the three major languages spoken in the Inter-American Division: French, Spanish, and English. Hope Channel Français, however, will reach far beyond the French-speaking regions of the division because of collaboration between the Inter-European Division, the Adventist Church in Canada, and the French Antilles-Guiana Union. — Libna Stevens, IAD
30 Togo Inmates Baptized Thirty inmates were baptized at a Togo prison chapel built by the Adventist Church after prison officials asked for help replacing a previous chapel that had collapsed in bad weather. The chapel, located in the main prison in Togo’s capital, Lomé, cost $13,000, of which nearly half was donated by the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist Church. The baptisms were the result of an evangelistic series led by Bruno Amah, an Adventist member jailed in the prison, said Kwasi Sélom Sessou, executive secretary of the Adventist Church’s Eastern Sahel Union Mission. — Andrew McChesney, Adventist World
17 Families in Middle East Seventeen South American families have arrived in the Middle East as part of an unprecedented effort to share Jesus in a region where Seventh-day Adventists have struggled to make headway. The families underwent a three-week orientation course in Lebanon, which included the cultural shock of learning that the vast desert region also boasts snowy mountains, before scattering across the Middle East and North Africa to begin five-year terms. The missionaries are funded by the South American Division. — Chanmin Chung, MENA
A South American missionary building a snowman during an orientation trip in northern Lebanon.
Left: Hundreds of people being baptized in Lake Nicaragua. Below: Watching the baptisms are Ted N.C. Wilson, second left; Granada Mayor Julia Mena, fourth left; and Mark Finley, sixth left.
Adventist Church Opens Religious Freedom Group in Jamaica
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has opened a Jamaican chapter of its International Religious Liberty Association, which defends the rights of all faiths, at a festival attended by senior government officials and thousands of other people in Kingston.
FREEDOM ON THEIR MINDS: Thousands attend the Festival of Religious Freedom at the National Arena in Kingston, Jamaica.
Leaders of the chapter, called the National Religious Liberty Association, said the group was needed because Jamaicans should not take their religious freedom for granted. Religious freedom is on the minds of many Jamaicans after the government passed a flexible workweek law a few months ago that a number of religious organizations fear will not sufficiently protect their day of worship. The government, however, has insisted that the law is not a threat to religious freedom because it gives employees a 24-hour period to use as a day of worship.
The National Religious Liberty Association was launched recently during Jamaica’s first Festival of Religious Freedom at the National Arena before a crowd of thousands of Adventists and members from other denominations. “Our mission is to protect, promote, and defend religious freedom of all and everywhere. It is now your mission,” John Graz, secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association and religious liberty director of the Adventist world church, told attendees.
Robert Pickersgill, minister of water, land, environment, and climate change, who represented the prime minister, said the government recognized the “enormous impact” of religious freedom on Jamaica’s development and had enshrined the right in a 2011 amendment to the Jamaican constitution.
Parliament member Pearnel Charles, who represented opposition leader Andrew Holness, urged Christians to speak out against human injustice. “An attack on freedom anywhere is an attack on freedom everywhere,” he said. Jamaica joins more than 80 countries worldwide with national religious liberty associations. Most recently Papua New Guinea opened its own association at a festival in December.
ASeventh-day Adventist student was named Nicaragua’s “best student” after earning first place in a national competition measuring proficiency in math and science.
STUDENT HONOR: Nicaragua Adventist Vocational School student Nathon Leopold Hilton (center) is awarded by the country’s minister of education for scoring the highest in a national academic competition at a ceremony in Chiquilistagua Stadium in Managua on September 13, 2012.Nathon Leopold Hilton, 16, was recognized by Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education as the country’s top-scoring student during a ceremony at Chiquilistagua Stadium in Managua on September 13, 2012. The honor was based on Hilton’s performance on a national test covering mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry.
Leopold, an eleventh grader, is the first student from Nicaragua Adventist Vocational School to receive such recognition, said school principal Felipe Cordero.
“We are excited for Nathon and that this recognition highlighted the school,” Cordero said, adding that school faculty and staff are committed to both strong academics and spiritual growth.
The school plans to hold a program to honor all the students who made district finals in various subjects, Cordero said.
More than 200 primary and secondary students are currently enrolled at Nicaragua Adventist Vocational School. The church’s Nicaragua Mission, headquartered in Managua, operates the school. Nearly 3,000 students attend 25 Adventist-run primary and secondary schools in Nicaragua.
There are roughly 62,000 Adventists in Nicaragua, a country with a population of about 3.2 million. —reported by Javier Castrellon/IAD Staff
EDITORIAL MEETING: Dozens of Seventh-day Adventist editors from two church-run publishing houses in South America met at regional church headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, to integrate their efforts and network with colleagues.The council recognized the work of editors, encouraged collaboration between the two publishing houses, and provided resources and networking opportunities, church leaders said.
“Publishers are always offering so much to people, but they don’t always receive the support that they need in return,” said Erton Köhler, president of the church’s South American Division.
Numerous prominent Adventist editors led presentations during the conference. FormerAdventist Review and Adventist World editor William Johnsson shared lessons learned during his decades-long writing and editing career. Church historian, author, and editor George Knight offered examples from early church pioneers who helped shape the Adventist ministry of communication.
Alberto Timm, an associate director of the White Estate, and Wilmar Hirle, associate director of publishing ministries for the Adventist world church, spoke on major cultural and ecclesiological challenges the church is currently facing, and how editors can help offer clarity and context.
To Almir Marroni, a vice president for the South American Division, the conference served to motivate publishers, who, he said, play a key role in preparing the world for Christ’s second coming.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the importance of the ministry of those who were called by God to communicate the gospel through the written word in the last days of history,” Marroni said. —South American Division News with Adventist News Network
Directors of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International elected Jonathan Duffy, current CEO of ADRA Australia, to serve as president of the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A unanimous vote October 10, 2012, confirmed Duffy as the fourth president of the 28-year-old agency.
NEW ADRA PRESIDENT: Jonathan Duffy, since 2008 CEO of ADRA Australia, was elected president of ADRA International, the global humanitarian service of the Adventist Church, on October 10, 2012.According to Geoffrey Mbwana, board chair for ADRA International and a general vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, the search “was a very transparent, very objective process, one that gathered information from all levels of the organization. This gave us a global input leading us to get the best candidate, whom we believe will lead this organization to the next level.”
Mbwana said that Duffy “brings the leadership qualities we were looking for. He also has the managerial experience and a very clear vision, as well as experience in the organization.”
Duffy said, “I am extremely honored to be selected for this role. ADRA has been a tremendously positive force in the humanitarian arena, bringing hope and healing to millions over the past 28 years. I believe that we have such great potential to make an even larger difference, especially with the very dedicated and talented staff around the globe. I look forward to working with the ADRA International staff, the ADRA Network, our board, organizational partners, and many supporters.”
Before joining ADRA Australia in 2008, Duffy served as director of Adventist Health for the South Pacific Division, where he had extensive experience in health promotion and community health development. He also holds a Master of Public Health degree from Deakin University in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. —reported by Mark A. Kellner with information from Crister L. DelaCruz, ADRA