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Local church apologizes publicly to its pastors

AUSTRALIA—The South New South Wales (SNSW) Conference session began with a reconciliation ceremony and a public apology from a church to its ministers.

Griffith church publicly repented and apologized for the way they had treated their pastors in the past, extending their apology to the conference and their fellow churches.

“We have sinned against God, the South New South Wales Conference, our sister churches, and the ministers who have come to minister to us along with their wives and families,” said a statement, signed by the church members.

The letter drew comparisons with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and their rebellious criticism of Moses, as well as being based on Daniel’s prayer of repentance.

The statement was voted by a church business meeting and presented at the constituency meeting. It was run in the church bulletin for several weeks, giving all members and regular attendees a chance to read and sign it. [Jarrod Stackelroth | Adventist Record]

Pastors’ summit on abuse draws hundreds

Spencerville, Maryland, United States —The North American Division (NAD) live streamed the enditnow Pastors’ Summit on Abuse. Pastors and church leaders from across the division, in person and online, attended the first-of-its-kind event, which was dedicated to sharing information on how to recognize and prevent abuse at church events and in the lives of church members. Presenters also shared legal definitions of abuse and what church leaders should do in reporting cases.

Hundreds of questions and comments were sent to the enditnow social media team throughout the day. Most of these questions were answered by the presenters (after their lectures), attorneys, pastors, and Adventist Risk Management representatives.

Daniel R. Jackson, president of the North American Division, stated, “I pray that wherever we find abusive behavior, we will deal with it in a Christian way—we will not ignore it. We have to help end abuse. It is our Christian mandate. We have to inform ourselves. We have to inform our people.”

Presenters and topics included Kiti Freier Randall, “Child Abuse”; David Fournier, “Child-to-Child Bullying”; Lola Moore Johnston, “Teen Dating Violence”; Mable Dunbar, “Intimate Partner Violence: Pastor/Ministry Response”; Mark Chopko, “Pastors’ Legal Responsibilities Regarding Abuse” and “Pastoral Care for the Abuser”; and Mike Tucker, “ ‘The Bible Says’—Debunking Scriptural Support for Abusive Relationships.”

Tucker, who is speaker/director of Faith for Today Ministries, started his presentation by stating that “abuse never stops on its own. . . . Statistics on abuse in our church are just as bad as in society.”

Tucker received the most applause during the two-day event as he elucidated several biblical passages, describing how some common interpretations are inaccurate. “Scripture does not require you to stay in an abusive relationship,” he said.

A different group of presenters spoke for the Spanish-language lectures on day two. These experts spoke on the same or similar topics as their English counterparts.

During his presentation , Alfonso Valenzuela, pastor of the San Bernardino Spanish church in California, said that every minister must recognize when there is some type of abuse and report it to the authorities.

“Even if you do not want them to, [the victims] will come to you,” he said. “If you don’t have the counseling education, refer them to professionals.”

To watch the presentations, visit facebook.com/enditnowNAD/. Those who attended the entire day, in either Spanish or English, are eligible for continuing education credits. [Kimberly Luste Maran, North American Division News]

Pastoral leaders respond to crisis in Las Vegas community

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States—In the midst of a hurting community, local Seventh-day Adventist churches steadily moved into place to aid those affected by the Las Vegas shooting that took 58 lives on October 8, 2017.

The Paradise and Mountain View Adventist churches opened their doors to the community to pray with those affected by the event.

“People from around the world are reaching out to Las Vegas, and our church is doing likewise,” said BJ Boles, senior pastor of the Mountain View Church.

Those from the churches who are trained in counseling have been volunteering their time in the area’s hospitals. Peter Neri and Neat Randriamialison, senior and associate pastors of the Paradise Adventist Church, were among several pastors who spent time counseling victims and their families. “

These people need prayer and someone to talk to,” said Neri. “They have been very receptive to praying with us.”

Neri and Randriamialison visited the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center early Monday morning. For hours, the pastors listened to the stories of those waiting in the auditorium and prayed with them. Though their ministry was well received, the pastors feel it was a small contribution considering such overwhelming—and unexpected—need.

“We weren’t ready for this kind of disaster,” said Neri. “We could be doing so much more.”

Leon Brown, president of the Nevada-Utah Conference, agrees that there is very limited understanding of this kind of crisis—and, thus, a need for a different kind of readiness and planning. “We must step up our game so that we can be better prepared for disasters like this,” Brown said.

Responding quickly to this need, regional leaders have already initiated discussions with local pastors to better understand crisis readiness and disaster preparedness. Jerry Waggoner, director of Adventist Community Services for the region, began work Monday to improve lines of communication between Las Vegas churches and the entities involved in disaster response.

Church members joined the long lines of blood donors at Red Cross blood drives, and ministered to the mourners who come by. In addition to supporting the victims, churches are also supporting the first responders and law enforcement.

The local pastors are coordinating additional visits to the hospitals to speak to and pray with those who are still waiting for their friends and family members who are being treated.

Carlton P. Byrd, speaker/director of Breath of Life, who held a two-week evangelistic campaign in Las Vegas, commented, “God will be with us during this most difficult time, but as our revival theme says, the time is now! Now more than ever, we sincerely believe that this is an opportunity to extend God’s love to Las Vegas residents and share His message of hope and healing from the study of His Word.” [Faith Hoyt, Nevada-Utah Conference | Pacific Union]

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