Oliver Tapped as South Pacific Adventist Leader
First Pacific Islander to serve as general secretary
Leaders of the South Pacific Division (SPD) Executive Committee have elected Barry Oliver, the current general secretary for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific, as the new president for the region.
Laurie Evans, president of the SPD since 1998, announced his retirement at the November 13, 2007, meeting.
During his term as president, Evans oversaw a major reorganization of resources (reducing the number of administrative positions to free up money) during his term. He also directed a legal restructure that has seen the incorporation of the Sanitarium Health Food Company and Sydney Adventist Hospital, known as “the San.” Evans was known as a strong advocate for using modern technology, notably satellite television and video conferencing, to carry out the mission of the church.
Oliver has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific as a minister, evangelist, lecturer, and administrator. He is married to Julie, a teacher, and has three sons.
Oliver grew up as an Adventist in Goulburn, New South Wales. He attended Avondale College, the church’s Cooranbong, New South Wales-based, tertiary institution, completing a bachelor’s degree in theology. In 1973, the Olivers accepted a call to minister in southern Queensland. They cared for churches in Maryborough and Hervey Bay, in southern Brisbane, and on the Darling Downs during the next five years. Oliver was ordained as a minister in 1976.
PRAYING TOGETHER: From left, Barry Oliver, Lawrence Tanabose, retiring SPD president Laurie Evans, and world church president Jan Paulsen unite in prayer during divisional meetings in which Oliver was elected SPD president and Tanabose general secretary of the division.The church called Oliver to serve as district supervisor, evangelist, and university chaplain for the Port Moresby district of Papua New Guinea at the end of 1978. He transferred to Rabaul as president of the church’s New Britain/New Ireland Mission after one year. Oliver joined the theology faculty at Avondale five years later and completed his master’s in religion.
Oliver and his family moved to Andrews University in Michigan, U.S.A., at the end of 1985. He completed a doctorate in Christian ministry and mission with a focus on Adventist organizational structure. He returned to Avondale for nine years, and developed a field-based ministerial training program integrating theory with practice. He also pioneered evangelistic training that helped students prepare hundreds of people for baptism.
Oliver was elected general secretary of the South Pacific Division in 1997. He served for 10 years as the second officer of that church region.
A much-published author, Oliver has written more than 100 articles for church periodicals, including cover features for both Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines.
Replacing Oliver as general secretary, Lawrence Tanabose has become the first Pacific Islander to be appointed as an officer of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific.
Currently president of the Trans-Pacific Union Mission (TPUM), Tanabose and his wife, Rosina, have served the Adventist Church since 1974. He was elected TPUM president in 2005. Nearly 90,000 church members reside in the Trans-Pacific region, which includes countries such as Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands.
In his first year as president, Tanabose oversaw the formation of a single administrative structure for the church in the Solomon Islands. Previously, three missions—Eastern Solomon Islands Mission, Malaita Mission, and Western Solomon Islands Mission—cared for the 34,387 church members in 417 organized churches and companies in the Solomons.
Tanabose, 54, was born in Papua New Guinea to Solomon Islander missionary parents. He has served the church as a Bible lecturer, pastor, field evangelist, departmental director, and general secretary in the TPUM. As a representative for the Adventist Church, he has also worked closely with governments in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Fiji.
He holds a diploma in administration and a masters degree in theology. He and his wife have a daughter and three sons. Known for his passion for evangelism and a desire to bring people to Christ, Tanabose still preaches evangelistic campaigns regularly.
World church president Jan Paulsen oversaw the nomination of division officers. A division president is also a vice president of the GC, and, as such, the recommendation of the SPD Executive Committee is submitted to the GC Executive Committee for ratification.
Paulsen expressed appreciation to Evans for his leadership. “We have worked closely together, and I have always appreciated Laurie’s experience and creative participation in the work of the global church,” he reflected. “And I think the work in this division has been looked after well.
“I am also extremely delighted with the recommendation that is now being brought,” said Paulsen in congratulating Oliver on his nomination.
Oliver said, “I have always been amazed at how I have been content working in a role and God has—seemingly out of the blue—moved me to a different place of service.”
He shared Julie’s reaction to the news of his appointment with committee members. “She said to me, ‘We’ve always believed that where the Lord calls and what He asks us to do, He will help us to do it. And this is no different.’ I will covet your prayers and I will pray for you.”
Oliver said he is excited about the possibilities and particularly the people of the church in the South Pacific. “We need to keep doing the things we’ve done well and find better ways to do the things we have not done as well as we could have,” he comments. “I want the church to be open to where God is leading us and to be ready and willing to go there. I would like to see the church utilizing its full potential, using the diversity in the church and our various gifts to further our mission together.”
—by Melody Tan, communication director, South Pacific Division, and Nathan Brown, editor, Record.