A quick and perceptive look at what's going on in the Seventh-day Adventist Church...
Brazil’s Player of the Year Stands for Sabbath
Soccer goalkeeper stuns the country’s sporting world.
By Carolina Félix, South American Division
An up-and-coming soccer goalkeeper has stirred up a storm in Brazil’s sporting world by announcing that he will no longer play matches scheduled from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Carlos Vítor da Costa Ressurreição, 30, who was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church last month, disclosed his decision at a news conference, sparking a wave of surprise, sympathy, even anger from fans and sports commentators who struggled to understand his rationale.
The furor is in no small part linked to the fact that Ressurreição has made a number of important saves in the past year that moved his Londrina Esporte Clube up from Serie C to Serie B in the Brazilian National Championship, the main soccer league championship in the country. Ressurreição was named player of the year, resulting in a job offer from Serie A team Chapecoense that would have doubled his salary. Ressurreição turned down the job because it wouldn’t have allowed him to observe the seventh-day Sabbath as mandated by the fourth commandment, according to the newspaper Lance!
Moreover, Ressurreição’s future is up in the air because a number of Serie B matches are held on Friday nights and Saturdays. His team has announced that it will not renew his contract when it ends in May. But Ressurreição is clinging to his convictions, telling the news conference on January 20 that he wouldn’t even be playing soccer if it weren’t for God.
A year before his baptism, he said, he spent four long months at home in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, without a signed contract with any team. During that time his wife, Gabriela, was approached by a friend at a hair salon and offered a partnership in producing handbags. The two women subsequently created their own label and formed a business that grew quickly, Ressurreição said. “In a short amount of time the profit grew larger than my salary had been in the soccer club,” he said. “That was the moment I understood that God had several possible ways to care for my family.”
After this realization, Ressurreição set aside his fears about not being able to land a soccer contract and instead began a process that he called “intimacy with God.” He started to study the Bible and pray every day. “My faith is not based on words said by a pastor or anything like that,” he said. “I studied the Bible and came to the conclusion that I needed to grow spiritually.”
As he studied, he became convinced that his mother-in-law, Tânia Rocha, a Seventh-day Adventist, had been right when she had told him about the Sabbath 12 years earlier. He was baptized on December 27. The uncertainties that Ressurreição now faces may be as daunting as those that he had when he didn’t have a soccer contract a year ago. But he expressed calmness about the future when a reporter asked him at the news conference whether he was prepared to choose between his faith and his career. “Without any doubt, I choose my faith,” he said. “Many others came before me, giving me this opportunity to choose.”
But he isn’t sitting around. As the clock ticks down on his current contract, he has started a Bible study group with his teammates.
“I’m at peace because my life is in the hands of God,” he said. “As long as there are teams that respect my beliefs, sports will always be an option. If not, the Lord has already shown me in the past that He will take care of me.” Ressurreição’s stand is winning admiration from some sports commentators. “I’m not religious, but I’m touched by Vítor’s choice,” said Ayrton Baptista, Jr., a sports blogger with Globo Esporte, one of the best-known sports Web sites in Brazil. “His faith speaks loudly.”
Willing to Die for Their Faith
Two married couples tell why they moved to the Middle East.
By Andrew McChesney
Large tears welled up in Juanita’s eyes. She drew her young daughter close in her arms. But her voice remained resolute as she spoke about the possibility that she might die for her faith in the Middle East.
“When you are sure of the call of God and the call of the church, it is easier to go to dangerous places because you know that God will be with you,” Juanita said. “He will help us.”
Her husband, Carlos, nodded his head solemnly. He said he had been thinking about Arabs who made international headlines giving their lives for a cause they believed in, no matter how wrong the cause might be. “Why can’t we believe in our cause and be willing to give our lives, too?” he said. “This is the true cause; it is the cause of Jesus.”
Carlos, Juanita, and their daughter are among 17 Seventh-day Adventist families who arrived in the Middle East from South America in February 2015. The highly-trained professionals gave up comfortable jobs in their home countries to spend the next five years working in one of parts of the world where it is most difficult to share the gospel. The past year has been filled with Arabic lessons, intensive planning, and complicated paperwork as the couples inch closer to securing jobs in restricted-access countries. Their goal is to serve as tentmakers: front-line, self-supporting Adventists who share their faith in the workplace. Juanita and Carlos spoke about their efforts in a candid interview. Adventist World is not using the couples’ real names nor disclosing their location because of the sensitivity of their work.
Tears formed in Juanita’s eyes when she was asked how she had weighed the risks as a mother. Before leaving South America, she said, she and Carlos signed a document granting custody of their daughter to her maternal grandparents in the event something happened to them. Juanita said she had no doubt that God had called not just her and Carlos but also their daughter to serve in the Middle East. “God has called us as a team, the three of us,” she said, holding her cooing daughter on her lap. “The call is for her as well, even though she doesn’t know it.”
The girl has already helped her parents make inroads in a culture where it’s difficult for foreigners to make friends with Arabs. Not only are men and women strictly segregated, but Arabs and foreigners often live in their own worlds as well. The other day, Carlos was playing with his daughter at an outdoor playground when her antics caught the attention of an Arab father who had a child of the same age. The two men started conversing and ended up exchanging phone numbers. Soon Carlos’ new friend invited him to a one-on-one game of ball.
“My daughter is making a lot of connections,” Carlos said. Personal relationships are especially important in the Arab world, where literature evangelism, public meetings, and other outreach efforts common elsewhere are banned, church leaders said.
No Adventist believers have been killed for their faith in the Middle East in recent memory, said Homer Trecartin, president of the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa Union. “We have had some close calls, but I am not aware of any who have died,” he said. But Trecartin openly tells potential volunteers that they must be willing to die if they accept a call to serve in the Middle East. “I don’t want people to come and help us for the adventure and thrill,” he said. “I want them to come because they really believe that God has called them and they are willing to go, even if it means they never return home.” All the self-supporting families who arrived in the Middle East last year were selected in a process that involved being screened by the church’s South American Division and approved by the Middle East and North African Union. The South American Division is covering many of the families’ expenses as they settle down to work.
Meanwhile, Carlos said he didn’t know whether God would call him and his wife to make the ultimate sacrifice. He said he didn’t know whether they were ready to die. But he said he believed that God would prepare them if that time came. “We know God will give us the strength to face any difficulty,” he said as his daughter, now off her mother’s lap, joyfully toddled around the room. “If He calls us to make that sacrifice, it would be an honor, of course. We are at peace. If we are within the will of God and serving Him, we are happy.”
A quick and perceptive look at what's going on in the Seventh-day Adventist Church...
Vegan Diet Cuts Risk of Prostate Cancer
Loma Linda University Health releases new study.
By Andrew McChesney
Men who follow a vegan diet are a third less likely to develop prostate cancer, according to a new study by Loma Linda University Health. The study, published in the January 2016 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, saw a reduced risk in both White and possibly Black males who adhered to a vegan diet without meat, dairy, and eggs.
“If you are already a vegan male, be thankful that you will have a lower risk of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Gary Fraser, director of the study. “If you are not vegan, be aware that the lacto-ovo diet and the pesco-vegetarian diet did not give evidence of protection when compared to non-vegetarian Adventists.”
The study—a new analysis of 26,346 men who participated in the landmark Adventist Health Study-2—examined the association between prostate cancer and the diets of men who ate meat (nonvegetarians), some meat (semi-vegetarians), dairy and eggs but no meat (lacto-ovo vegetarians), only fish (pesco-vegetarians), and no animal products (vegans). Vegans differ from other dietary groups by consuming more fruit, vegetables, nuts, and soy. The other major difference is their nonuse of dairy and eggs.
“It would be reasonable to consider minimizing use of dairy products and maximizing fruit, vegetables, nuts, and soy—particularly if there is a family history of prostate cancer,” Fraser said. But, he cautioned, “this message about dairy is at the present time a logical deduction rather than a tested result.”
He said his team planned to soon put this message to the test directly and report on it.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, accounting for 27 percent of all cancer cases among men, according to the American Cancer Society. But male subjects in the Adventist study experienced about one-third lower incidence of prostate cancer if they were vegan, said Loma Linda University Health, a Seventh-day Adventist institution located in southern California.
“In total, 1,079 incident prostate cancer cases were identified. Around 8 percent of the study population reported adherence to the vegan diet. Vegan diets showed a statistically significant protective association with prostate cancer risk,” said an abstract of the study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The precise relation between diet and prostate cancer is unclear. “Because people do not consume individual foods but rather foods in combination, the assessment of dietary patterns may offer valuable information when determining associations between diet and prostate cancer risk,” Loma Linda University Health said in an e-mailed statement.
But other recent studies have found a link between meat and cancer. An analysis from Adventist Health Study-2 published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in March 2015 showed that a vegetarian diet might reduce a person’s risk of colorectal cancer by 22 percent. Previous work from Adventist Health Study-1 linked meat consumption to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
The World Health Organization made international headlines last fall when it declared red meat and processed meat to be a cancer hazard.
Dr. Peter N. Landless, director of the Health Ministries Department of the Adventist world church, said the outcome of the latest study was not surprising. “There is robust evidence supporting the many benefits of a balanced plant-based/vegetarian diet,” Landless said in a statement. “It is interesting and exciting to see different protective properties of different diets, even among the various so-named vegetarian diets (total vegetarian or vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and pesco-vegetarian).
“We see statistically significant protection against prostate cancer in the white vegan group of the AHS-2, with a nonsignificant trend among Black vegans, and wrestle with the protective benefit of dairy consumption regarding colorectal cancer. The epidemiologists and statisticians are facing almost as many questions as answers that are generated by various studies. There is no doubt that a meat-free diet is healthier than one that includes meat. We have long recommended that dairy products should be used sparingly and as a condiment, as it were.” Landless even posed the logical question that many might expect: “Why would we not just recommend a total vegetarian diet for all?”
“Human beings are dependent on dietary sources of vitamin B12; in many parts of the world, dairy is the only source of this essential vitamin for the vegetarian,” Landless said. “Where vitamin B12 is readily and affordably available, where adequate B12 fortification of dairy equivalents is practiced, the total vegetarian diet is very healthy. I strongly urge that all categories of vegetarian supplement their B12 intake, even more intentionally as they grow older, as B12 absorption processes slow down. The current study is a North American-based study; although the results are able to be extrapolated to a global population (White and Black males, as specified above), the socioeconomic circumstances cannot.” Landless summed up his response to Loma Linda University’s new report, saying: “As far as a general recommendation is concerned, we believe it safe and healthy to consume a balanced (supplemented), vegan diet; we urge those who consume dairy products to do so sparingly and use low- or no-fat preparations. We underscore that a balanced, plant-based diet is optimal. We strongly encourage supplementation of vitamin B12 as outlined above. These recommendations hold true for men and women. We keenly await more answers as the research unfolds.”
Division President Succumbs to Rare Disease
Asoy was elected to office just six months ago.
By Andrew McChesney
Leonardo R. Asoy, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), died after a months-long struggle with a rare bone marrow disease. He was 56.
Asoy was elected SSD president at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, in July 2015, replacing the ailing Alberto C. Gulfan, Jr., who died of cancer on September 26, 2015.
Asoy, who was hospitalized about two months after the General Conference session, died on January 12, 2016, at the Adventist Medical Center Manila, Philippines, from complications resulting from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare disease in which the bone marrow is unable to produce adequate healthy blood cells.
Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, called Asoy “a dynamic promoter and supporter of evangelism.”
“He was a valiant guardian of the eternal truths of Scripture and the marvelous Advent movement God has entrusted into the hands of Seventh-day Adventists,” Wilson said.
He offered condolences to Asoy’s wife, Elma, and two adult children, Elnardz and Shawnette.
SSD’s executive secretary, Saw Samuel, has been appointed acting president until a new president is elected, in accordance with the General Conference’s Working Policy.
Leonardo Remulta Asoy was born on November 18, 1959, in Mindanao in southern Philippines, and graduated from the Adventist-owned Mountain View College in 1983 with a degree in theology. He first worked as a district pastor in Ozamis City in the church’s Western Mindanao Conference and later as its youth director from 1988 to 1990.
In 1990 he earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Cavite, Philippines. Whatever knowledge Asoy gained from his Adventist education, he returned hundredfold, friends said.
Felixian T. Felicitas, dean of the School of Theology at Mountain View College, recalled traveling with Asoy on numerous evangelism outings early in their 15-year friendship.
“On most of our trips, Pastor Asoy would turn our long travels into mentoring sessions,” Felicitas said. “At times he would park his blue pickup truck and we would sit in the back, resting. He would simply share his ministry experiences with me. Little did I know then that this was his own little way of teaching and mentoring me.”
Asoy served as president of the South Philippine Union Conference from 2011 until last year, turning it into one of the best-managed unions in the Adventist Church, said G. T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist world church and a friend of Asoy for more than two decades.
Ng said he would long remember the one day that Asoy briefly left the hospital to attend the opening of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division’s year-end meetings on November 6. Asoy had been confined to his hospital room for 47 days, but he made it a point to be discharged from the hospital in time to attend the morning worship of the opening session. “He spoke with resounding gusto, saying how grateful he was to be present in the midst of fellow leaders from the unions,” Ng said. “He was fully committed to the Lord and to the full restoration of health.”
Ng described Asoy’s life as “a celebration of piety, humility, zeal, and unflinching courage.” “Like the apostle Paul, he could say, ‘This one thing I do,’ in his lifelong commitment to the mission of the church,” he said. “Here is a valiant soldier of Christ waiting to see his Master face to face soon.”
My Straight A’s Friend, Bob Folkenberg
Remembering the late General Conference president.
By Jim Gilley, evangelist and former 3ABN president
It was a strange place to begin a friendship.
Bob Folkenberg and I were very nervous as we stood in line waiting for our final grades before graduation from Andrews University in 1962. Bob shared with me his reason for concern. “I’ve made straight A’s on every report card since the first grade. But I am concerned about this last report card, because I may have slipped to a B in Greek II with Blazen,” he said, referring to Ivan Blazen, the professor of Greek and New Testament.
I shook my head in mock sympathy. I also was worried, but my concern was whether or not I had passed Greek I. All I needed was a passing grade. When Bob received his grade, he jumped, nearly hitting the ceiling, and shouted, “Whoopee, an A!” Then he ran down the hall. Wow, well done! I thought. Straight A’s since first grade!
Bob was long gone when I received my grade and erupted in similar celebration, announcing “Whoopee, a D!” with even more exuberance. We went on to graduate that weekend, Bob with honors, and I—just barely! Both of us were eagerly looking forward to embracing that which the Lord had given us a love for: sharing Jesus with the lost.
A Heart for Evangelism
The next thing I knew, Bob was the singing evangelist for the Roger Holley evangelistic team in the Columbia Union. And because no one else would take the job, they made me the Southern New England Conference evangelist.
Bob learned evangelism from Roger Holley, a man who had studied at the feet of Fordyce Detamore, who knew more than anyone about the “science of soul winning,” as the pen of inspiration calls it. And Bob learned it well during his two years with the team from 1964 to 1966. When he left Pastor Holley to accept a call to the Inter-American Division, the practical knowledge God had blessed him with proved key to the unprecedented growth of that division. “Thousands were baptized because Bob had the faith to hold big meetings for the Lord,” evangelist Kenneth Cox told me.
Cox, working with evangelist Benny Moore, held evangelistic meetings with Bob in Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. “Anytime we had an opening, Bob would ask for our team to come,” recalled Moore.
Bob served as evangelist for the Panama Conference, then as president of the Honduras Mission and president of the Central American Union. Soon he was elected assistant to the president of the Inter-American Division, where his emphasis was on evangelism.
In 1985 Bob returned to the United States with his wife, Anita, and two children, Bob, Jr., and Kathi, to serve as president of the Carolina Conference. The Carolina Conference soon led the Southern Union and North America in soul winning. Bob often called me, and we would discuss some new soul-winning idea that he had, always on the cutting edge of technology. I was amazed at his great personal energy and his total commitment to spreading the gospel.
A Miracle at the 1990 General Conference Session
In 1990 I was chosen as a delegate to the General Conference session in Indianapolis, Indiana. When I arrived at the airport, I saw Richard Barron, a great youth leader who had also served as a conference president, and he said to me, “Gilley, there’s change in the air.”
He was so correct. I soon saw what he meant.
Only three people were chosen from the Southwestern Union Conference delegation to participate in the Nominating Committee, and miraculously I was one of them. Initially Bob was not chosen to represent the Southern Union Conference. But one of those selected to serve declined, and Bob was picked as the replacement—another miracle.
When the Nominating Committee was organized, Bob was quickly elected as chair, to the surprise of everyone. We immediately saw his strength with that committee, and it suddenly occurred to me that he could be nominated to the office of General Conference president.
I pointed this out to several people, and the next morning I told Bob that I thought that he would be asked to be president before the day was over. He looked at me as if stunned and said, “Jim, you’re the second person to tell me that this morning.”
But things didn’t go that way. The Nominating Committee ended up choosing George Brown, president of the Inter-American Division, as General Conference president. However, Brown declined the position after a time of prayerful consideration and because of his concerns about his wife’s health at the time.
When we reconvened, Charles Dudley arose and nominated Robert S. Folkenberg, Sr. Delegates on the floor elected Bob, and at the age of 49 he began his presidency at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Bob hit the ground running, putting Global Mission into action worldwide and adopting the suggestion of then-Lake Union Conference president Don Schneider and his committee to launch World Wide satellite evangelism in partnership with the Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN). The Seventh-day Adventist Church entered a time of great growth, with Bob leading the way in opening evangelism in the former Soviet Union and parts of the world known as the 10/40 window.
Problems arose during Bob’s second term of office, and he decided to resign in 1999. It was a dark time of his life. But the Lord still had much work for him to do.
Greatest Ministry Comes After GC
Bob returned to the Carolina Conference, where Ken Coonley, who had served as executive secretary during Bob’s presidency there, was now president. Bob began a project he called Global Evangelism but later changed to ShareHim, which organized lay members and youth to hold evangelistic meetings all over the world. ShareHim is owned and operated by the church as a department of the Carolina Conference, but is funded exclusively through direct donations.
The other day I contacted Benny Moore, who joined ShareHim after retiring from denominational work, to ask about the results of ShareHim under Bob’s leadership for the past 10 years. Not all totals are known. But ShareHim conducted almost 6,000 evangelistic series resulting in 300,000 baptisms in the 11 years from 2000 to 2011. An average of 50 people were baptized per series.
On December 24, 2015, Bob went to sleep in Jesus after a long struggle with cancer. When Bob, Jr., called to tell me, I was driving with my son, John, in my pickup. I stopped the truck and reflected on Bob’s life. I thought back to Andrews University and standing in line for our grades.
One day we will once again stand in line, and Bob will hear the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” Bob may have worried that he had slipped to a B, but once again I believe he made an A.
Church leaders have approved a completely new, Internet-centered encyclopedia to replace the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, first published in 1966.
Adventist Church Will Release All-New Encyclopedia
The Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventism will debut online in 2020.
By Andrew McChesney
Church leaders have approved a completely new, Internet-centered encyclopedia to replace the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, first published in 1966. The new Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists will debut online in early 2016 and be overseen by the General Conference’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR). The General Conference’s Executive Committee has earmarked US$1.6 million for the five-year project.
“Unlike its predecessors, no future major revision process will be required, because of the continuous updating of the encyclopedia’s Web site,” ASTR said in a statement. “Thus, while the production of a new encyclopedia will be time-consuming and not cheap, it means a similar outlay of resources will never be necessary again.”
ASTR is also partnering with the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, which developed an early model for a Wikipedia-style online Adventist encyclopedia.
The two magazines will work to encourage congregational and crowd-sourced histories of local churches, Adventist institutions, and individuals, while the ASTR effort will focus on scholarly contributions to understanding Adventist history and experience. “We’re excited at the prospect of involving thousands of Adventists—laypersons, retirees, and members of congregations—who have unique knowledge they can share with this world-embracing project,” said Adventist Review/Adventist World editor Bill Knott.
In addition to text, the online edition will feature video and audio and draw on the expertise of thousands of Adventist scholars worldwide. It will be available in all major languages, including English, Spanish, French, and German.
“We are working with divisions to translate the encyclopedia into the major languages spoken by church members,” ASTR director David Trim said.
The idea for a Seventh-day Adventist encyclopedia was first raised in 1959. The Review and Herald Publishing Association initially decided against the idea, but, upon completing the nine-volume Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary in 1962, voted to publish the encyclopedia as a complement to the series. The project was announced at the 1962 Spring Council, and the single volume Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia produced by a staff of eight was released in January 1966. A revised edition was published a decade later in 1976. A substantial revision began in 1993 that resulted in the publication of two volumes in 1996.
On May 13, 2015, Christian media ministry It Is Written purchased property at 9342 Four Corner Place in Collegedale, Tennessee.
It Is Written Puts Down Roots in Tennesse
On May 13, 2015, Christian media ministry It Is Written purchased property at 9342 Four Corner Place in Collegedale, Tennessee. The ministry is relocating from California after nearly 60 years because of the sale of its former location. The ministry will soon begin building a state-of-the-art media headquarters.
“We are so excited to make Collegedale, Tennessee, our new home,” John Bradshaw, speaker/director for It Is Written, said. “We quickly felt right at home in Tennessee, and we are thrilled to continue to share the love of Jesus with the world from our new location.”
It Is Written is best known around the world for its weekly television series, which has aired every Sunday for 59 years. Today It Is Written can be seen on multiple networks, including TBN, the Discovery Channel, Hope Channel, 3ABN, and LLBN. The weekly programs feature Pastor Bradshaw and provide spiritual guidance and encouragement on a variety of biblical subjects.
In 2012 It Is Written began Eyes for India, a humanitarian project that provides life-changing treatments to people suffering from cataracts and other vision complications in northern India. By partnering with an Indian hospital and gifted ophthalmologist, Dr. Jacob Prabhakar, thousands of people have recovered their sight. To date, Dr. Pradhaker has performed more than 100,000 surgeries.
“We are delighted to be able to help the people of India in this way,” Bradshaw said. “We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, helping the world.”
In addition to its TV and humanitarian efforts, It Is Written also conducts live events such as its Revelation Today series in both English and Spanish. In the past year Bradshaw has presented major series in Switzerland, Malaysia, and Canada. Evangelistic series are being planned for Zimbabwe and other countries, as well as domestic programs in Chattanooga (October 2015) and Boston (2016).
In a historic move, It Is Written’s executive committee voted to appoint a ministry manager for the first time. Until now, a speaker/director has led It Is Written, with other administrative duties being carried out by a manager/treasurer. Now It Is Written’s organizational structure has upgraded, resulting in increased efficiency and improved operating procedures.
Jesse Johnson accepted the invitation to become It Is Written’s first manager, joining speaker/director John Bradshaw and treasurer Charles Reel to form the ministry’s administrative team.
Johnson, who holds several degrees in business, education, and technology, is a businessman and entrepreneur with extensive experience in ministry leadership. He has worked with many local conferences, as well as the General Conference, helping them to bring innovation to their technology departments. He is a past-president of ASI Mid-America.
“Jesse brings a wealth of talent, experience, leadership ability, and Christian maturity to It Is Written,” said John Bradshaw, It Is Written’s speaker/director. “In the past he has helped It Is Written in enormous ways through his wisdom and his vision for ministry. To actually have him on our staff in such an important role is a new day—a hugely exciting day—for It Is Written. His presence on our team has already been a huge blessing.”
“I’m excited about this. I’ve always believed in It Is Written, and I can see the huge potential this ministry has. I’ve been a board member since Mark Finley was director, and have watched It Is Written use the latest in technology for evangelism. I hope to build on that momentum to utilize technology to help spread the gospel to the world,” Johnson said.
“I see God creating the It Is Written of tomorrow,” said Bradshaw. “Having Jesse as part of our team is a truly exciting development; it will allow It Is Written to be a more dynamic ministry, and it equips us to take on the growth the organization is experiencing.”
It Is Written began in March 1956, when founder George Vandeman began a then innovative concept of televising religious programing from southern California. Over the years the ministry has had the opportunity to share the Word of God with many countries, including areas where there are few Christians and great resistance to Christianity.
The nonprofit organization is supported by viewer donations. Contact: ItIsWritten.org for more information.
Seventh-day Adventists Are Growing Churches, Gaining Members
More than one million joined in past year; member retention is up
By Mark A. Kellner, Adventist World News Editor, with reporting from Taashi Rowe and Ansel Oliver, Adventist News Network
More than 1 million people joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 12 months ending June 30, world church executive secretary Matthew A. Bediako told leaders of the movement during the ninety-fifth Annual Council of the world church.
World church membership stood at 15,433,470 as of June 30, Bediako said, with the church having added 2,859 people daily during the reporting period.
Bediako reported there is now one Seventh-day Adventist for every 429 people on Earth.
The Adventist Church, Bediako noted, has “never been in such a favorable position to witness for the truth.” But, he added, “This should not lead us into an attitude of complacency and contentment. This is the time to be more alert and active than ever.”
“For the past five consecutive years, over 1 million individuals have joined the [Seventh-day Adventist] Church every year,” Bediako told the gathering. “During the period under review, July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007, 1,044,315 [people] were added to the church through baptism and profession of faith. Although this is [a] 48,774 decrease from last year, we praise God for these precious souls.”
The membership figures showed a net increase of 681,448 people, after accounting for 362,867 whose names were removed from church membership rolls. In 2006, church leaders said some of these adjustments resulted from audits of local church membership, as well as from reports of members who have died. In the five-year period ending in 2006, according to a review of statistics provided by the church and reported by Adventist News Network last year, deaths have accounted for approximately 10 percent to 12 percent of annual membership losses.
At the same time, the attrition rate seems to be turning around, Bediako said.
“While we were reporting a ratio of accessions to losses [of] around 45.03 percent,” he said, “our records this year show a healthy figure of 24.21 percent. This is a remarkable change, and we praise God for that.”
MEMBERSHIP GAINS: During his annual report, Adventist world church secretary Matthew A. Bediako said positive church growth statistics should not lull church members into complacency. “This is the time to be more alert and active than ever,” he told Annual Council delegates.
Bediako said that while “we are happy to see a new trend, … we cannot sing the doxology until we eliminate from our chart the los[t] and missing column. To achieve this goal, we need to exhibit in every church, institution, and on all levels of church administration, an unconditional love for one another. Let every individual who enters our church and institution feel welcome. We need to respect and accept one another.”
And Bert Haloviak, director of the church’s Office of Archives and Statistics, said this year’s membership growth rate—4.62 percent—is the highest since the 2002-2003 year, when the results of membership audits first showed up in the church’s books.
On the missionary front, Bediako reported that 96 new missionaries were sent out on full-term appointments in 2007, and 624 others returned to their assignments after furloughs and annual leaves. A total of 979 missionaries, “coming from everywhere and going to everywhere,” are in the field today, augmented by more than 1,600 Adventist volunteers on 12- and 24-month commitments.
Reports from Bediako and Vernon Parmenter, director of Adventist Volunteer Center, also emphasized the impact of lay member and pastoral outreach in many areas. Evangelistic campaigns in Africa, the Ukraine, Tartarstan, Indonesia, the Inter-America church region, and South America are all credited with adding to church membership rolls.
“I fully believe that the greatest days of accomplishment are still before us,” Bediako said. “Soon we shall see an increasing acceleration of the work on all fronts in the days to come. As a people, we have never been in such a favorable position to witness for the truth.”
He added, “Our church has gained a larger measure of respect than ever before. The publicity that has been given to the church’s worldwide activities has led many to ask what Adventists stand for. Many organizations, other religious denominations, and people in both high and low places of responsibility are ready to listen to our teachings and to follow the truth. It is, for all of us, a day of opportunity.”
Seventh-day Adventists are active in 203 of the world’s 207 nations and territories. Between 25 and 30 million people attend Adventist worship services weekly, a number larger than baptized membership because, as in many Protestant churches, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not baptize infants.
Church income, mission offerings up An increase in ordinary tithes and offerings lifted the Adventist Church’s financial bottom line by $10 million as of September 2007, compared to the same time last year.
Juan R. Prestol, undertreasurer for the world church, told delegates that as of September 30, 2007, the church’s financial statement reflects “a significant inflow of tithe received during the course of the year, and an increase in net assets.” Tithe for the 2006 calendar year totaled more than US$1.6 billion.
“Annually God’s faithful servants, in small and large amounts, return $1.6 to $1.7 billion a year, and every dollar of that is as important as the millions that come in,” said Robert E. Lemon, world church treasurer.
Conservative estimates of revenue through the end of 2007 will give the church enough resources to recommend additional funding for projects and programs around the world through a supplemental budget, normally voted at the executive committee’s Spring Meeting.
Returning tithe is a “sermon,” Lemon said. “You don’t give unless you believe God is the Creator.”
More than 300 Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders heard President Jan Paulsen’s Sabbath sermon, October 13, at the church’s world headquarters near Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Paulsen addressed leaders as part of Annual Council, the world church’s business meeting.Tithe is not the only place in which the church is seeing increases. Lemon reported that local offerings increased from 23 percent of tithe in 1950 to 36 percent of tithe in 2005.
One of the church’s biggest success stories is the turnaround in mission offerings, which, until recently, had declined by 36 percent since 1950. But for the past two years, mission offerings in North America have increased at a rate equal to or greater than an increase in tithe. Total mission offerings have increased from $51.2 million in 2005 to $55.4 million in 2006.
Lemon also presented a special report on an extraordinary amount of tithe the church’s world headquarters received earlier this year. Council delegates voted to receive it and have it used for the church’s worldwide work.
Lemon referred to the contribution as an “extraordinary” blessing and also as a “unique opportunity for advancement of His work.”
“The reality is, the way we intend to use these funds we will have a greater need than we’ve ever had,” Lemon said. “I think to miss this opportunity to move a half a generation ahead of what we would have been able to do is something the Lord will hold us accountable for if we don’t do it.
“Tithe is for support of the ministry and evangelism; it’s not for endowing and then just using the interest,” Lemon said in answer to a question from the floor. “The Lord, when He rewarded the widow for having fed the prophet, He didn’t fill up her flour barrel and oil every time she used it, but only replaced what she had used.
“We have consulted with many on this issue, and we want it clearly understood that there is no change in our position that tithe ... should be turned into the local conference through the local church,” Lemon said.
“It would have to be an extraordinary amount for us to consider this again.”
The council decided that proposals on how to administer the tithe would be submitted by regional world leaders and administrators at the church’s headquarters before being reviewed by the president’s council in January 2008.
Church leaders envision proposals will include funding for Internet and other mass media communication outreach, initiatives in large cities, and the church’s work in the 10/40 Window—a section of the globe in the eastern hemisphere between the 10 and 40 northern lines of latitude that is largely unreached by the gospel.
Church President Jan Paulsen urged leaders to use the funds for long-term projects. “These are not projects that should have a short-term life,” Paulsen said. “They may, in your planning and thinking, have no end except the second coming of Christ.”
Lemon praised church members for their faithfulness in returning tithe and urged continued commitment.
Delegates also unanimously approved the world church’s 2008 budget of more than $142 million, including a 3 percent increase in across-the-board appropriations for its 13 world divisions and General Conference institutions.
The budget includes the more than $35 million cost of operating the Adventist Church’s world headquarters, fixed at 2 percent of world tithe.
Paulsen Sounds Unity Theme TRUST: During his Sabbath sermon, Jan Paulsen, president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, encouraged leaders to trust each other’s abilities. “What you do as a leader in the church, do it with love for the Lord and with love for His people, do it with integrity, and keep your heart clean,” Pastor Jan Paulsen, world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said in his October 13 Sabbath morning message to church leaders.
Paulsen, serving his second full term, issued a call for denominational unity: a united movement is a “shared trust for the sake of Christ and the unity of the church,” he declared.
“If the exercise of my freedom causes damage to you, then it was wrong and not in harmony with the will of Christ,” Paulsen said in explaining the words of the apostle Paul, as found in 1 Corinthians. Although Paul’s comments initially concerned food, Paulsen said this was “just the illustration. The real issue is: What should govern the decisions and actions we take? His answer clearly takes us to showing consideration and deferring to others.”
He added, “We are bonded in unity, and we have to trust each other to do right.”
In order to preserve unity, Paulsen said church leaders must resist the temptation to jump into matters beyond their jurisdiction: “The task elsewhere is not the responsibility you were chosen to handle—at least not just now. It is not for me to resolve. Others have been chosen for that role, and the extent to which they succeed or not they will have to answer to the Lord for, just as you and I will for ours.”
He added, “We cannot be fixers of things out there beyond our mandate. I have to trust others who are nearer to the matter and whose responsibility it is to take care of it.”
Although “people write to me about a great variety of things they want me to fix,” Paulsen said, “if there are issues really in need of fixing, it is not going to work for me to try to do it; I have to trust others to do it, as must you. I trust you,” he said to church leaders.
“Mavericks who act independently and by their own wisdom do not make good administrators in this church,” Paulsen declared.
Paulsen said the consistent message of Scripture, the writings of Ellen G. White, and from Adventist history is “that God wants this church to stay united. Let us make no mistake about this.” He admitted, “from time to time issues come up which test our commitment to unity.”
The world church leader also addressed several continuing issues that have sometimes seemed to challenge the global church’s unity.
On the continuing question of the role of women in ministry, Paulsen counseled what may be seen as a middle path: “I encourage young people, men and women, to follow the calling God has placed within them. To deny the calling God may have given them is often at the risk of their own spiritual life. If this is an employment issue which you need to fix in your part of the world, then let’s do that. We are going to need everyone—everyone—to finish our mission, and for God to usher in eternity,” he said.
In his comments, Paulsen also said that continuing controversy over the church’s definition of the nature of Christ will not, “on my watch,” cause a reevaluation by the church.
“I think there is a reason for why we have chosen generous language in describing our position as a church on the nature of Christ. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ (wholly God and wholly man—no one else matches the “only-begottenness” of that One) leads us to say that,” Paulsen said.
He added, “I have to tell you I just cannot imagine a post-modern person in Europe, a businessman in Asia or Latin America, any more than a farmer in Africa will care one iota whether Christ had the nature of man before the fall or after the fall. The realities of the world in which we live have other concerns which occupy us.”
Paulsen said such discussions often focus on the possibility of living a victorious Christian life. However, he added, such victory will not be attained by “settling the precise human nature of Christ; it will be by experiencing the ‘power of His resurrection.’
JAMAICA: Adventist world church president stresses personal empowerment in youth dialogue
LET’S TALK: Paulsen emphasized empowerment and church ownership during the dialogue with young people at Adventist-owned Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica. He also appealed to Adventists of older generations watching the broadcast to include young people in the life of their church.eventh-day Adventist world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen gave a resounding endorsement of Adventist young people October 27—even offering a “yeah, mon!” in Jamaican dialect—during Let’s Talk Caribbean, the seventeenth such program in a series of unscripted, unedited conversations between the church president and its under-30 constituency.
“You don’t have to be elected to an office to own the church. You don’t have to be a local elder to own the church. The church is a place of mutual ownership—we’re in this together,” Paulsen told nearly 40 eager young people during the conversation, based at Adventist-owned Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica, and broadcast on the church’s Hope Channel satellite and cable television network.
Paulsen centered his remarks during the hour-long broadcast—as he often does during Let’s Talkprograms—on empowerment and church ownership. While it’s a key message worldwide, he said, it’s particularly important in the church’s West Indies region where young people make up some two thirds of the Adventist Church’s membership.
Early on in the broadcast, Paulsen turned briefly to the camera for remarks meant largely to amend some of the church’s older generations’ opinions of young people. “I’m more preaching—and I am preaching—to those who are watching. You need to make sure that you trust those who are young with responsibility. It is an indisputable fact that if you do not engage those who are young, they will walk away from the church.”
Following a question on civil engagement, Paulsen said Christians should not only ask what they can contribute to the church but also what they can contribute to the communities in which they live. One way to impact society is to hold political office, Paulsen said. But, he cautioned, someone considering candidacy must ask, “Is this something I can do without compromising who I am and my loyalty to God?”
Let’s Talk Caribbean again touched on protecting personal spirituality when one young delegate asked what the church was doing to shield young people from the “ill effects” of the media. Paulsen reminded the group of both the “colossal” good media can do, and its potential to propagate vice. “The church is not going to make the choice you will have to make,” said Paulsen, who often advocates private rather than corporate responsibility while answering Let’s Talkquestions. Entertainment choices, he said, are inherently a matter of conscience. “When you switch on the set, it’s not, ‘What does the church say on this one?’ It’s ‘Is this going to make [me] a better person?’”
During the second half of Let’s Talk Caribbean, many of the young delegates addressed issues of sexuality in their questions.
One student asked a question regarding young women who are pregnant outside of marriage, specifically when a pastor or other church official is accused of molestation or rape and the victim is too afraid to come forward. Paulsen answered adamantly: “Look, if you’ve committed a crime, you go to jail. The church will not provide shelter to people who are abusing their role or engaged in criminal activities condemned by society.” He added that the church should “provide a safe haven and healing for those who carry wounds and scars.”
The conversation then turned to AIDS, and whether the church’s message of abstinence was enough to combat the disease’s rampant growth. “Should we be preaching something else?” one delegate asked.
‘YEAH, MON’: Let’s Talk Caribbean host Deneil Clarke, center, with Adventist world church president Jan Paulsen, right, in a broadcasted conversation with young people in Jamaica, October 27. “Hello,” Paulsen told the group. “No, no,” Clark said. “If you’re doing OK, you’ll respond by saying, ‘yeah, mon.’” Paulsen tried again, this time greeting the group in the Jamaican dialect.“Look, let’s be perfectly frank,” Paulsen said. “Sex belongs in marriage. Promiscuity is never condoned in the Bible as a lifestyle. Let’s not look for ways to accommodate it or make it safer. Save the good things for the right time.”
Following the broadcast, Paulsen said he was pleased by the young delegates’ pointed questions.
Other questions addressed the church’s methods of ministry. When one student asked whether Paulsen thought so-called “tent” evangelism was “outmoded,” he said traditional evangelism still works “amazingly well” in most parts of the world. But church leaders, he said, should not depend on the initial effects of an outreach effort to produce “enduring, in-depth decisions” for Christ, something he said long-term small groups are better at. “For a person to stay in the church, you’ve got to have friends in the church.” He said large-scale events might be better if they focused on celebration rather than conversion.
The church may spend too much time on outreach at the expense of “inreach,” one delegate said. For a new Christian still struggling with drug addictions, the counsel to “trust Jesus” may not be enough, he said, suggesting that the church oversee more addiction and skills training programs. Paulsen agreed more inreach should be done, so long as funds aren’t diverted from outreach.
Let’s Talk tapered off with a lighter question: whether or not Adventist young people should play competitive sports. Paulsen said if sports consume players and fans to the point of ousting God and religion as their priorities, they were certainly not healthy. But generally, he said, sports encourage strong relationships.
—By Elizabeth Lechleitner, Adventist News Network, with AW Staff
Magazine Is Religious Guide for Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church
By Choe, Jeong-Kwan, editor of Church Compass, writing from Seoul, Republic of Korea
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Korea celebrates the 1,000th issue of the monthly church magazine Church Compass.
Adventism came to Korea in a unique way—not through a foreign missionary, but through a native. In 1904 two Korean men on their way to the United States had a stopover in Kobe, Japan. Brothers Sohn Heung-Jo and Lee Eung-Hyun spotted a sign saying “Seventh-day Adventist Church.” They entered and met the assistant pastor, Kuniya Hide. After listening, they accepted the Advent message and received baptism. They were the first Koreans introduced to the Advent truth.
Brother Sohn Heung-Jo returned to Korea instead of continuing on. On the ship to Korea he met Lim Hyung-Joo (who later changed his name to Lim Ki-Ban). Sohn shared the Advent message with Lim. In turn Lim continued to share his newfound faith with others in Korea. After only one year of sharing the gospel message in Korea, 71 people were baptized and four churches were established.
The year 1905 brought Korea a missionary: W. R. Smith. The Korean mission headquarters was built in near Pyongyang (now SunAn Airport) in 1906. The Korean Mission was officially established in 1908 and then relocated to Seoul in 1909. Despite difficulties, Adventism continued to grow. They fervently reached out to fellow Koreans, and by 1916 had grown to 860 members with 18 churches and 32 places of worship as well as changing their status from mission headquarters to the next level. It was July of that year that the first issue of the Korean Adventist magazine, the Church Compass, was printed.
SHOWING THE WAY: Church Compass magazine staff, and leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Korea, hoist banner celebrating 1,000 issues of the monthly publication for church members. The magazine now contains the Korean edition of Adventist World as well. The first editor was Mimi Scharffenberger. Despite the abnormality of the political situation and the persecution faced under Japanese colonialism, the Church Compass encouraged members. It contained articles pertaining to spiritual growth, encouraging words of faith, and news on mission activities within Korea and overseas. During this dark time the church was able to receive spiritual nourishment and maintain a presence in Korea because of the Church Compass.
By April 1941, the persecution from the Japanese occupation had become so fierce that both the Church Compass and theSigns of the Times magazines were forced to close. In 1945, when Korea was liberated from occupation, the Church Compass revived its publication.
In December 1951, in the midst of another war, the magazine went into a frenzied effort to continue publication. Because of the disturbances of the war, however, the publishing house could not resume normal operation, so they used other printing shops. Since that time the Church Compass has continued to print, and in October 2007 it reached the milestone of its 1,000th issue of publication.
The Church Compass shows the footprints of the Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church’s growth and development. It has become the standard and landmark of the Adventist Christian lifestyle and evangelism in Korea. The Korean Adventist Publishing House celebrated the Signs of the Times magazine’s 1,000th publication in 2003, and the Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church celebrated its centennial in 2004. This year the Church Compass is celebrating its 1,000th publication.
Presently the Church Compass prints 100-page magazines that include church works, local church news, articles on faith, and daily devotionals (for children and adults). It also includes the Korean-language version of Adventist World magazine.
More than 18,000 homes subscribe to the Church Compass. It began a “Voice-Eye” program service last year to assist blind, weak-sighted, and illiterate people so they can listen to the message from the printed text, using technology. This is the world’s second magazine to offer such a service.
The mission of the Church Compass is to uplift our Lord Jesus Christ and to help people to draw closer to Him so that they can go out into the world and share and spread the message of hope of the immediate advent of Jesus Christ.
AUSTRIA: Literature Evangelism Celebrates Centennial
If there’s ever a question about what one man can do, consider the case of Ferdinand Prauhart.
One hundred years ago, Prauhart, a Seventh-day Adventist from southern Germany, traveled to Austria and began work as a literature evangelist. He sold Bibles, Christian literature, and health books, going door to door. The work wasn’t always popular. Six years after it began, then-president of the world church A.G. Daniells reported “[t]he literature evangelists in Austria are persecuted regularly and put in prison.”
But the book-sellers persevered and by 1921, were more formally accepted in Austria. During the ensuing 86 years – with the notable exception of the National Socialist era – Adventist book sales have continued in Austria.
Prauhart’s simple act marked the beginning of Adventist literature evangelism in Austria, and was commemorated with a series of special events at Bogenhofen Seminary in August.
During a special church service on Saturday, August 18, 2007, Raimund Fuchs, literature evangelism director for the church in Austria welcomed some 350 participants including currently working book evangelists, their families as well as former colleagues and guests from Austria and abroad. In spite of other media, Fuchs noted, books and magazines remain popular.
Howard Faigao, publishing director for the Seventh-day Adventist world church, discussed the question of keeping public interest in the printed page. He informed participants that there are 65 Adventist publishing houses around the world that print Christian literature in 261 different languages. About 54 million books were sold worldwide by 40,000 literature evangelists during the last five years.
Daniel Heinz, director of the European Archives for Seventh-day Adventist History, outlined the history of literature evangelism and explained its importance in the context of the Adventist mission. Following the example of the Waldensian colporteurs during the thirteenth century, the Pietist “literature missionaries” of the eighteenth century, and the “literature evangelists” of the Bible and missionary societies of the nineteenth century, the Adventist movement developed its literature evangelism program.
“It is an interesting fact, ” said Heinz, “that the birthplace of Adventist literature evangelism was not in North America, but in Europe.” Michael Belina Czechovski, a former Polish priest who joined the Adventist church in America and returned to Europe as a missionary, called himself a “book colporteur.” In the mid-to-late nineteenth century, he was producing and selling a missionary paper as well as books, calling on people in their homes, in Northern Italy, France, Switzerland, and the Alsace. Later, the German missionary Ludwig R. Conradi took up this kind of activity, especially in German speaking areas.
For a long time, religious freedom was extremely restricted and public preaching of the Adventist message was not possible. In spite of these limitations, the Adventist movement grew with the essential contribution of the literature evangelists.
Since 1948, literature evangelists have sold approximately 1.5 million books in Austria alone. About 10 percent of all Adventists in Austria were introduced to the church through literature evangelists, who are connected with the publishing house known today as Top Life Wegweiser Verlag.
The Seventh-day Adventist church in Austria (www.adventisten.at) consists of 3,800 baptized members worshiping in 49 congregations. The Top Life Wegweiser Publishing House (www.toplife-center.at) offers a great variety of books and magazines on the Bible and faith, health, education, as well as children’s books and books for younger readers. —by Christian Grassl, communication director, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Austria
INTER-AMERICA: First Doctoral Class of Pastors Graduates at Montemorelos University
The Inter-American Theological Seminary (IATS) recently reached a milestone when it graduated the first generation of pastors to complete a doctoral degree in Ministry. Nineteen ministers from through- out Mexico presented their doctoral theses and received their graduate diplomas during a spe-cial ceremony held in Montemorelos University in Monterrey, Mexico, on August 11, 2007.
HAPPY GRADUATES: First doctoral graduates from the Inter-American Theological Seminary pose after ceremony.
Montemorelos Uni-versity, an Adventist educational institution belonging to the Inter-American Division (IAD), was the first of nine IATS sites throughout the church territory to host such a high academic level.
“This is so significant for Inter-America,” says Jaime Castrejon, president of IATS. “To produce the first generation of many to become graduates with a doctoral degree, the maximum you can aspire to in any field, proves the capacity, capability of IATS to produce doctoral level education successfully.”
IATS originally began in the 1980s with the help of Andrews University in Michigan under the direction of Castrejon, who was then ministerial association secretary for IAD.
Since 2003, IATS has graduated 335 students throughout its nine sites. Next year, IATS expects to graduate a number of ministers who are enrolled in the Doctorate in Ministry program at Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica.
The Inter-American Theological Seminary is accredited by the Adventist Acrediting Association and has been pursuing accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools. —by Libna Stevens, Inter-America Division