Adventist leaders elect church president for the South American Division

Stanley Arco, an experienced leader in both Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking regions of the South American Division (SAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was elected as the new president of that 2.5-million-member division on April 22, 2021.

The Executive Committee of the General Conference (GC EXCOM) voted to accept the SAD Executive Committee (SAD EXCOM) recommendation of Arco for the top leadership position during a special virtual session. He will replace Erton Köhler, who was recently elected secretary of the General Conference.

During the April 16 session, SAD EXCOM members also thanked Köhler for his years serving the Adventist Church in the region. It was an emotional moment for Köhler, who emphasized that he is confident about the future and Arco’s leadership across the region.

“Pastor Stanley Arco is an experienced and balanced leader with a wide-ranging vision of the [Adventist] Church in South America,” Köhler told the Adventist Review. “He is a man of prayer, biblically sound, and well-grounded in the guidance of the Spirit of Prophecy,” he said, referencing the writings of Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White. “He is a leader open to dialogue, respectful, conciliatory, and notably focused on mission.”

Elbert Kuhn, an associate secretary of the General Conference, also highlighted Arco’s collaborative spirit. “He is someone who can work with a support group around him, and that is very necessary for the times we are living in.”

Arco was born in southern Brazil. In addition to being a church pastor in Brazil, he served as a youth ministries leader across several church regions for 17 years. He also worked as the secretary of the South Parana Conference in southern Brazil and later as assistant to the SAD president. In August 2020, he was elected vice president of SAD.

“This assignment is a joy, a privilege, and a huge responsibility,” Arco stated. “I ask for the prayers of every member, of every person wishing for Jesus to come soon. Please pray for me, for all leaders, and for the mission of the Adventist Church in South America and around the world.”

[Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review; Felipe Lemons, Jefferson Paradello, SAD News; Márcio Tonetti, Revista Adventista Brazil]

South Pacific Division records highest baptism figure during pandemic year

The South Pacific Division (SPD) experienced a significant increase in baptisms in 2020, the only division of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many countries in the South Pacific region have been sheltered from the impact of COVID-19, the 40 percent growth in Trans-Pacific Union Mission (TPUM) and 30 percent in Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM) is noteworthy as a higher-than-normal growth rate.

“When countries in these unions experienced lockdown, they were still able to meet in groups of between 50 and 100,” said SPD president Glenn Townend.

“Both of these unions [TPUM and PNGUM] have focused on the harvest cycle of disciple-making. Many people were able to lead groups, share their faith, and give basic Bible studies to people and allow the fellowship of the people and the Holy Spirit to bring about the transforming life change in Jesus. These groups increased the involvement of many people and were not pastor dependent.”

“We have been too comfortable in our church building,” said TPUM president Maveni Kaufononga. “COVID-19 closed [the churches] and forced us outside of our comfort zone. The Spirit of God has provided so many ways for us.”

“Prior to COVID-19, we dedicated 2020 as a year of our young people,” said Pastor Kaufononga. “We had a plan; COVID-19 came and adjusted our plan, but [at least] there was a plan for evangelism. We must be intentional about evangelism and have a plan. Circumstances may change, but with a plan in place, it will guide us.”

According to Pastor Kaufononga, one factor that may have increased the church’s visibility in Fiji during 2020 is that many more people tuned in to watch evangelistic TV programs while locked down at home. Most of the countries in the Pacific have a strong Adventist presence through local Hope Channel TV or FM radio stations.

“The Holy Spirit is working in many different ways; we just need to join Him. With this theme of ‘I Will Go,’ our people are committed to go! We must not allow COVID-19 to stop us.” [ Jarrod Stackelroth, Adventist Record]

A new strategic framework for Trans-European Division

Trans-European Division (TED) leaders have formulated plans for mission from now until the 2025 General Conference Session and beyond.

TED president Raafat Kamal says that the new strategic framework “is intended to help Adventists within the TED territory to renew our Adventist identity that speaks to the challenges of the twenty-
first-century world, and to renew, in this century, the passion for mission of past generations.”

The 26-page document develops a framework in 11 key areas, stretching from mission, identity, and evangelism to spiritual growth, leadership development, and disciple making to issues of diversity and the appropriate training of pastors and leaders in the context of European culture and its spiritual needs. It is based upon the General Conference (GC) strategic plan “I Will Go” and contextualized for Europe.

Marius Radosh, a lay representative from Poland, notes that “each organization is tested in times of crisis.” He adds, “Being well prepared and adapted to the new pandemic and post-pandemic situation, strategy helps us go through difficult times as a winner.”

Newbold College of Higher Education has redesigned its structure and curriculum to highlight discipleship and mission-focused training. It will also reflect the diversity of the church across the entire division. Ivo Kläsk, president of the Baltic Union, stated, “I find it most helpful that we are working with a renewed focus on training pastors for our fields and that we are working together towards influencing the understanding of the role of a pastor,” he said.

Christine Burt, a lay representative from the British Union Conference (BUC), notes that “young people are crucial for church growth and, during COVID, church engagement has often been challenging. The media, online ministry, and church of refuge areas of the plan contain many suggestions for engaging the youth.”

Hilde Huru, a lay member from north Norway, noted the important emphasis on rooting out any cultural or racial biases from the church. “It is not enough for leaders not to be racist or nationalist or biased in any way, but . . . we need to be purposefully anti-racist and have systems in place to make us override our unconscious biases.” This includes the hiring process, where she recommends ensuring that “TED ethical employment policies are established and used as standard practice in all units of denominational structure and institutions.”

Having spent ten years as president of the British Union Conference, Ian Sweeney agrees but notes that in the diversity issue we need to look at our external mission as much as mission within our church community. With the BUC probably having the most diverse membership in Europe, he says that “the recommendations would allow our church to share and celebrate our internal diversity and consequently be better equipped to reach our diverse communities and neighborhoods.”

The TED is committed to helping see the church in Europe move forward even amid both recent and historic challenges. As Kamal says, “Most important is the guidance by the power of the Holy Spirit and our choice, I will go, that lies in our hands, our response to the challenges, and what view we take of our situation.” [Victor Hulbert, tedNEWS]

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