Mystery — Poem

 

Somedays I just want to be

An Anglican with long, dangly earrings

And a priest to hear my confession.

 

It sounds easier to depend

On a priest for direction and sustenance

Than have this tenuous connection with silence.

 

At least a stained glass window

Covers those in its vicinity

With a many-colored shawl.

 

Mystery can feel like protection.

It is able to crop up anywhere

As beauty (and tragedy) are liable to do.

 

This propositional gospel

Where truth meets truth, one to one

Means I have to play expert

 

With the unknown

 

When I would rather play, “Seek the King,”

Digging in the dirt

And pulling back the sky.

 

To turn sparkling gems

Over and over in my hand

And know that whoever made these

 

Must be good and praiseworthy.

 

 

Cristina Williams has been jotting down her thoughts since she was eight years old. Just about as long, she has been kept awake at night by visions of “the end times” playing out in her head. Poetry is helping her to cope with the current state of the world and make sense of the legacy of Adventism on her soul.

Photo by Luca Lago on Unsplash

 

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

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Aunty, people criticize me for my graffiti art!

Dear Aunt Sevvy, I’m a professional artist and a letterer. I have been doing graffiti legally for six years. I think of it as a way to witness. But I still have people telling me that it’s the wrong medium to share God through. What should I do?

Public Art for Jesus


Dear Public Art,

I’m sure you understand why many people, especially older people, associate graffiti with vandalism, crime and gang activity. They don’t realize that it has transcended its origins to become a new art form of its own, a means for artists to express themselves, share information, show off their talents, and even protest injustice. 

You said that your graffiti is legal. I’m assuming that means you are seeking permission and doing public art in approved spaces, not defacing property—which means you aren’t breaking any laws. But it’s likely that people don’t understand that. 

You might try to explain what you’re doing. Talk to your pastor and ask if you can do a short mission spotlight-stye presentation. Share some of the history of graffiti, share your love of art and of Jesus, tell how you are reaching people who would otherwise not be reached by conventional methods. You might find that by educating them a little, you’ll change some hearts. 

Or, you could just ignore your detractors. Acknowledge that they don’t understand your vision and intentions, and continue joyfully sharing your love of Jesus in your own way. Like many artists, you won’t have everyone’s approval. But as Taylor Swift would say, shake it off. You know what you’re doing is legal, artistic and has good intentions. Don’t let them discourage you. 

Sincerely, 

Aunt Sevvy


You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.

To comment, click/tap here.

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New Bible Study Guide Launched for Millennials

Marcos Torres, who pastors in Western Australia, has created The Road to tell the story of Jesus in a way that appeals to secular young people who don’t know anything about religion.

Question: You have created The Road: A Journey through the Narrative of Scripture, a new Adventist Bible study set designed to reach millennials and post-moderns, and it is just out. What does it look like? Is it a book with questions at the end of every chapter?

Answer: The Road is a new Adventist Bible study set that reframes Adventism linguistically, conceptually, and aesthetically for emerging secular generations. It has a clean, minimalistic design to avoid the old school off-putting religious art and it aims to explore the story of scripture as a story, not a set of disjointed doctrines. I think that’s where the magic lies really. When you let the story of scripture tell itself, it has an authentic vibe. My main goal here was to capture that and channel it in a meaningful way for emerging generations impacted by secularism. 

So, to answer the last question: yes, there are a few questions after each chapter, but those questions are designed to facilitate a community experience. The set as a whole isn’t like the traditional Q&A sets with forced questions designed to move someone through an Adventist conveyor belt. It’s a naturally unfolding story.

Why did you feel such a book was needed? Explain more about how The Road is different from traditional Adventist Bible study programs?

There are three things that make this set different to traditional ones. The language is contemporary and fresh. The design is clean and elegant. And the framework is thematic rather than topical, so it aims to tell a story rather than a mere transfer of propositional information.

I felt this was needed because I have a huge passion for sharing my faith with people who have never been to church, and also with young people in church. But most of the resources I was seeing at the ABC at the time assumed a person was sort of Christian already. Worse still, many of them were framed in old language and contexts that are foreign to Millennials, others used forced questions and felt really fake, and most had just terrible design — so yeah, nothing that was really compelling. But rather than just criticize I decided to do something about it.


What kinds of content did you try to leave out of your Bible study program? What kind of content did you make sure to include? Does the program talk about the Seventh-day Adventist Church or is it more generic?

I intentionally left religio-centric questions out because I have never met a contemporary Millennial seeker, in or out of church, that really cared about those questions. So long, drawn out studies on whether the Sabbath is really the first or seventh day, is the law still applicable under the new covenant, why are there so many denominations, is the secret rapture true, and so on. Those are questions churchy people trip over — not emerging secular people (many of whom don’t even know what a pastor is).

Instead, the book aims to include questions that are more existential, deeply human, social, and cosmic. So it deals with the meaning of life and the trajectory of existence while also being rooted in an atonement driven vision of social justice — what I refer to as cosmic justice — and how Jesus is the fulfilment of a true, just, and equitable society.

The program does talk about Adventism, but it focuses on Adventism as a narrative or movement as opposed to Adventism as an institution. When discussing the remnant, it’s important to identify that God’s alternative community — the new humanity Jesus births through himself — is not to be confused with the institutional or culturally established churches. 

For many secular people, there is a kind of relief when they realize that I’m not promoting evangelicalism (which they associate with Trumpism and all kinds of political and socially toxic ideals like patriarchy, sexism, and nationalism). So, in introducing them to Jesus, I want them to know that God’s alternative community — the ecclesia — is not reflected in what they see in Christendom. And yeah, a part of that is in saying hey, I belong to a faith tribe that doesn’t believe in the religio-political legislating of morality, or supporting Israel despite Palestinian displacement, or who conceptualizes of God as an eternal sadist who tortures people forever. So, in that sense, Adventism as a movement is brilliant. But I stop short of suggesting that institutional membership or brand loyalty to Adventism as a “logo” is somehow the thing God is after, because not only does our institution and membership often perpetuate these same injustices, but God is after something significantly bigger: citizens of a new kingdom, not loyalists of a denominational brand. 

In the end, my hope is that seekers will join the Adventist Church but that they do so because it tells a compelling story that is bigger than itself and that this story becomes their identity and not our denominational branding.

Tell us about the experience you have working with young people, and people with no experience of church or religion?

Oh man, so many stories. But if I was to sort of summarize them all I’d say that young, unchurched people today have deep spiritual longings, and they are searching. But in order to reach them effectively we need a paradigm shift in how we articulate scripture at a cultural level.

This really hit home with me in one of the traditional churches I pastor. I noticed a trend after a couple of years. All sort-of-moderately-religious-people who showed up usually hung around and even got baptized. But secular Australians — many Millennials and Zs — rarely hung around. So, I visited a bunch of them to figure out what the issue was. It wasn’t the typical “church people are mean or judgmental” because this church wasn’t like that. Their big disconnect was how foreign our culture and articulation was to them. They wanted to know God and learn more about the Bible, but couldn’t wrap their heads around this foreign language and alien conceptualizations and frameworks, so they left. It was super painful, but a big moment that prompted me to do something radical for this generation.

Did you write the whole Bible study guide yourself? Did you get input from theologians or pastors? Did you get approval from the Adventist Church for the content and theology? Did you get help from any other writers or editors?

I’ve been working on it over the last five years and have repeatedly used it, experimented with it, and then gone back and tweaked it. So, in a sense, the book isn’t the product of my own intellect. It’s the product of many conversations with youth and secular people that have led me back to the Bible and helped shape the final outcome of the book. 

I have definitely had input from pastors but had to be careful because the aim of this set is to seriously contextualize to a younger, increasingly de-churched audience, so I wanted to make sure that integrity remained intact. Sometimes, if you involve too many churchy people who don’t get that space, you end up with a product they are happy with but at the expense of cultural utility.

Who published the book? Is it self-published? Did you approach any publishers?

It is self-published. To be honest, after the experience Jason Satterlund had with The Record Keeper some years back, I was shattered and jaded. I think at that moment I decided, as a Millennial creative myself, that I would use my creativity independently. So that’s what I did.

How are you marketing and distributing The Road?

The Road can be purchased on Amazon as a soft cover and you can also get reprint licenses from my website. The links to both are at www.thestorychurchproject.com.

You have an online component of the Bible study program. What does that consist of? 

The online component has two sections. The Navigate Series is a set of training videos and resources on how to effectively engage secular seekers. I wanted to do more than just put out another study set. I wanted to invest in people and equip them to be post-church missionaries because the truth is, a study set can only do so much. The real work has to be done in community, and that means we as Adventists need to develop and nurture our ability to meaningfully engage with our surrounding culture

The other section is The Sightsee Collection which is a series of reflection videos that accompany each chapter in the book. The goal there is to expand on each chapter. If a person does the book alone, I can be their fellow traveler on the journey. But it also exemplifies how to communicate the gospel in a way that interacts with the secular mind so will be of immense value to missional Adventists as well.

Who is your target market? And where are they? Mainly in Australia?

For the sale of the book itself, I am currently focusing on Adventists who want to reach western culture: the US, Canada, the UK, Australia. My goal isn’t just to go out there and reach the culture myself. I want to multiply this vision and mission into the hearts of others and hopefully see a catalyst of new post-church missionaries emerge to effectively connect with our contemporary age. 

So, at the moment, my target audience is missional Adventists. In the future, I will be creating an entirely separate online space that will go directly to the culture. I’m currently designing that with a friend of mine but it’s not ready yet.

What feedback have you received so far on The Road?

Incredible feedback. People love how modern it is. They love its design and the way it reads and tells the narrative of scripture. They love that the prophetic narrative is framed within the ethic of social and humanitarian justice and not just dates and future events. I mean, I have gotten so much feedback I could fill up pages, but so far it’s been remarkable.

How many copies have you sold?

The book just officially launched on November 5. I have sold a few hundred so far, which isn’t too bad for a relatively unknown pastor in a niche as small as Adventism.

I am hoping to get more exposure over time through word of mouth.

What are your hopes and goals for The Road? How will you judge its success?

My hopes and goals are really just two. First, that through it a new catalyst of missional Adventists can be equipped to contextualize the gospel to emerging generations. And second, that the many secular seekers that surround us will finally have a resource through which they can encounter the heart of God in a way that actually makes sense to them. If those two things happen, I’m happy.

Please tell us more about your background. What do you feel qualifies you to create this Bible study series?

I am a pastor in Western Australia, a graduate of Southern Adventist University, and a cultural aficionado. I have been immersed in the secular contextualization conversation for years now and have written books, blogs, articles, and run a podcast designed for that very thing. At the moment, I am also planting a new church in my city entirely reimagined for secular mission (it launches next year). So, this is definitely my element. And while I am not a secular outreach guru, I definitely believe I have something valuable to offer here.

But more to the point, I believe I am qualified to create this study set because I have messed up in cultural mission more than I like to remember. My list of failures is long, and I think it is those wounds and scars that have fueled this entire process. I’m not some evangelism icon or guru. I am just a Millennial who wants to share Jesus with others, has failed again and again, and learned from each of those bruises to connect meaningfully with people in a way that lifts Jesus up. And that’s really what this is all about.

 

See The Story Church Project for more information about The Road and how to order.

Marcos Torres has written many previous articles for Spectrum, mainly about reaching young people.

 

Alita Byrd is interviews editor for Spectrum.

Images courtesy of Marcos Torres.

 

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

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Anticipating AT1–November 13, 2020

Anticipating AT1–November 13, 2020

If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that we’ve been challenged by what we cannot control. The global pandemic is surging again, and we would be totally exasperated because of it if it weren’t for the sustaining hand of God in our lives.

We’re so delighted you’ve found Anticipating AT1. From our inspirational message, to our thought-provoking AT Trending News, to our melodic moment of music, we trust this short program adds value to your week. Please tell your friends about these videos. We hope they prompt personal reflection, and are a discussion catalyst with your family and friends as you talk with them in the safe ways you connect during these unusual times.

Host – Nancy Myers

Presenter – Karl Haffner

Trending News – Bjorn Karlman

Music – Carpenter Family

Musicians, we want to hear from you! Would you bless us with a vocal or instrumental piece? We’re looking for a three-minute song; email to atoday@atoday.org. If we select your video, we will give you a link to download your file at production size. If you recruit a friend to do this, you’ll be doubly blessed!

Discussion Questions:

1. What do you find helps you most to focus on God and not on your failings, or the fragility of your world? Share your reflections with a friend.

2. The passing of Heritage Singers co-founder Max Mace truly marks the end of an era. Although his legacy will live on through his truly wonderful music, it is very sad to see him go. It reminds us of the fragility of our existence here on earth, where even the best things and people come to their end. As we reflect on the beauty that Max left behind, how can we draw inspiration from how he served his fans and God to contribute and give back to our communities while we still have the chance?

Be well, and love well.

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International symposium reaffirms Adventist identity and mission

II dentity and mission” was the theme of the International Theological Symposium, which had the virtual participation of more than 15,000 pastors, leaders, elders, and members of the Adventist Church at the beginning of November. Promoted by the Adventist Church in South America with the support of the organization’s world headquarters, the event was also attended by participants from countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as well as from other regions of the globe.

Renowned scholars gave the lectures, covering topics such as Adventist theology, eschatology and prophetic gift, creationism, etc. The program’s objective was to reaffirm the identity and mission of the church according to its prophetic role. 

“In such a liquid world, where the lack of identity affects the way of leading, worshiping, preaching, and educating the new generations, it is very important to emphasize our identity as a church; our theology, our prophetic essence, and the sense of mission that we should have,” points out pastor Lucas Alves, director of the Adventist Ministerial Association at the South American level.

Dr. Elias Brasil, who heads the Biblical Research Institute at Adventist world headquarters and was one of the speakers at the symposium, sees the event as very timely for the current context, since “never before has the church been so subject to the challenges of culture, with a series of social and philosophical movements knocking on their doors and trying to influence or distort their identity.” For him, the great but necessary challenge is to keep the mission and vision of such a large and diverse church aligned. 

“We are more than 20 million members worldwide, from different cultures and languages,” he says. “Although there are distinctive features in each place, the mission of spreading the gospel is one. We need to work together to achieve the goals that God has placed on his church.” he considers.

Pastor Edwin Villca followed the program from the province of Chaco, in Argentina. For him, the greatest lesson he gained from the program and that deserves to be widely shared is the intercession of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary for humanity. 

“It shows me that there is still time for repentance and motivates me to share that hope of salvation with everyone around me,” he points out.

Soon, the symposium program will be made available to the public by the Adventist Academy. In addition, the lectures transcribed in Portuguese and Spanish can be accessed on the pastors portal.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site

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ADRA Brasil Serves the Population Affected by Blackout in Amapá

TT he Adventist Development and Assistance Resources Agency (ADRA Brasil) will assist the population of Amapá in the wake of the recent emergency decreed by the state government due to the blackout that has hit the region for five days. The incident left 13 of the 16 municipalities without power, which affects about 90% of the population.

In an initial response, the agency will provide water to 450 families while assessing other residents’ needs. “We still have uncertainties about how best to help these people. Today, we know that families mainly need water and food. Our first response will go this way,” says André Alencar, ADRA Brasil’s emergency coordinator.

The power outage started on Tuesday night, November 3, during a storm. According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, an explosion and, consequently, a fire, damaged the transformers in the most important substation in Macapá. The cause has not yet been identified.

As a result, several basic services such as ATMs, card machines, and gas station pumps have stopped working. Telephones, the Internet, and the hydraulic system are also down.

The emergency decree is valid for the next 90 days. For this reason, ADRA starts today, November 7, a fundraising campaign through its social networks.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s humanitarian agency is present in more than 130 countries. In Brazil, it is organized into 13 regional offices covering 15 states. Alencar currently maintains an office in Pará, which is working to assist those affected in Amapá.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site

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SWAU Nursing Department Awarded $90K Grant

SS outhwestern Adventist University has been selected as a recipient for a $90,000 Nursing Innovation Grant Program (NIGP) award under the 2020-2022 RFA (request for applications) entitled “Supporting Clinical Learning Experiences to Mitigate Impediments due to COVID-19.” Funding from this grant, provided by the academic quality and workforce division of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, will allow SWAU’s department of nursing to purchase additional simulation equipment and expand their clinical learning program on campus.

The effects of COVID-19 impacted nursing students across the globe, causing many nursing programs to make adjustments to their clinical learning programs. As a result of this grant funding, SWAU will be able to offer students more clinical experience in simulation labs on campus and greater preparation for real patient care.

The NIGP will allow SWAU to purchase three high-tech patient manikins and other upgrades to the simulation control rooms. Additionally, the grant will help with costs associated with the training and operation of expanded simulation areas.

“We are excited to offer greater opportunities for our students to practice patient-care skills and clinical judgment in a very realistic environment,” explained Dr. Kerrie Kimbrow, AdventHealth endowed chair of the nursing department. “Nursing faculty, Dr. Joyce Melius and Jean Alway, have worked hard to provide high-level simulation experiences for our students, and we look forward to this very timely growth for our department.”

Funding is being awarded over the course of two years and will allow SWAU’s nursing program to provide an even higher-quality experience while remaining hands-on and affordable. To learn more about the SWAU department of nursing, visit swau.edu/nursing.

This article was originally published on the North American Division’s news site

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Andrews University Hosts Remote SciFEST

FF or the past seven years, SciFEST has been held on the Andrews University campus. This year, however, the faculty adjusted to meet the new requirements of COVID-19 physical distancing. All SciFEST activities were conducted remotely through LearningHub and Zoom from September 21 to October 4. Seven STEM departments took part in SciFEST this year: aviation, biology, chemistry, engineering, math, physics, and sustainable agriculture.

On September 13, Andrews’ STEM division presented a STEM Show. Elementary, middle, and high school students and their families were invited to tune in to learn about possible careers and meet the Andrews STEM faculty. Students had the opportunity to watch live demonstrations and videos from the departments.

High school and homeschooled students across the country were able to participate in SciFEST, as professors had pre-recorded videos for students to access through LearningHub. Regardless of time zone, and whether students were watching from home or school, this new format made it possible for students to fit the event into their schedules. This year, SciFEST witnessed its largest number of participants yet: roughly 300 students took part in the program.

Participants were placed in teams that connected through Zoom and Google Hangouts to work together on a total of six hands-on laboratory activities, which could be completed safely using materials at home. Placing students in teams encouraged them to think collaboratively in order to complete the activities.

“My biggest takeaway from SciFEST is definitely how it gave me a look at what team problem-solving is like,” said Sara Hamstra, a senior at Andrews Academy. “Working with my team gave me an opportunity to interact with two other students from my school that I didn’t know very well. I liked how they each had unique perspectives and different initial approaches to the tasks.”

The digital format of SciFEST also allowed students to enjoy an interactive experience with the staff as they completed their laboratory activities. “I liked the online format,” said Owen Cook, a freshman homeschool student. “All the information was there, and if we had a question, there was an easy way to contact SciFEST staff for help. They responded quickly and were very helpful.”

Activities included building a model of human lungs, evaluating flight simulators, and creating a plant collection. Through these and other activities, the students were able to engage with science in a meaningful way. “I enjoyed the challenge and the fun of hanging out with friends and learning ways to use math and science to solve problems,” Cook said.

SciFEST hosted an awards program through Zoom on Sunday, October 4. Students voted for their favorite projects, and the top three teams were awarded medals.

Ultimately, SciFEST was able to foster a sense of collaboration and teamwork despite operating remotely. “Each laboratory activity was a team effort,” said Monica Nudd, STEM coordinator. “In the future, we hope to host one on-campus SciFEST event and another remote SciFEST opportunity annually.”

This article was originally published on the North American Division’s news site

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Virtual Community Center Will Support Mental and Physical Health in Mexico

Virtual Community Center Will Support Mental and Physical Health in Mexico

Initiative seeks to promote wholeness and wellness, coordinators said.

By: Laura Marrero and Inter-American Division News

Seventh-day Adventist-operated Montemorelos University in northern Mexico recently launched a virtual community center to promote wholeness and wellness. The new online AMICUM Life and Hope Center was designed to improve mental and physical health and personal finances by featuring digital content such as interviews with specialists, seminars, various support services, and blogs, coordinators said.

“The center has a mission to teach healthy habits for a well-balanced lifestyle, including the spiritual dimension,” Lorena Neria, general coordinator of AMICUM, said. It’s a type of wholistic approach that educates and supports a community, that integrates health and wellness and incorporates them into daily life, she explained.

“We follow Christ’s method of connecting with people, becoming their friends and sharing messages that bring hope to their lives,” Neria added. Online visitors can choose to enlist in online courses on healthy living from physical, mental, and spiritual aspects as well as find support groups led by health professionals, who will moderate forums for groups such as mourning mothers, young people with disabilities, body in motion, productivity without stress, and personal finances.

“These specific support group themes were chosen based on the needs of persons who live in large cities, regarding survival, protection, affection, understanding, participation, creation, idleness, identity, and freedom,” Mariela Espejo, coordinator of operations and content production of AMICUM, said.

The AMICUM virtual community center offers many resources and ways that online visitors can better deal with their daily lives, handling stress, mental distress, emotional stress, and more. [Image: AMICUM]

The center is being promoted through social networks, Espejo said. “Most of what we have noticed is the need for mental health. We will add more topics that can assist persons facing emotional crises, something the pandemic has aggravated.”

The center is still in the process of adjusting and going through a learning stage, Neria said. In addition to social media connections, leaders are counting on student literature evangelists who, in addition to selling books and literature, can point to the services of AMICUM as a free service to their clients, she explained. “We also want to enlist church members who are interested in sharing the platform with their friends and family members, so we are working on additional dissemination strategies for the virtual center.”

The center is considered a resource that can have the potential to impact thousands of people in Spanish-speaking urban populations.

Health and medical professionals specializing in neuropsychology, psychology, physiotherapy, accounting, and business administration, among others, are monitoring the forums daily on the website.

AMICUM, which means “friend” in Latin, came about after the Inter-American Division challenged Adventist universities throughout the territory to create community centers, with an initial sponsorship to start the center. The virtual center is self-sufficient, leaders said.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.


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In Europe, Church Leaders Invite Have Regions to Share With Have-nots

In Europe, Church Leaders Invite ‘Have’ Regions to Share With ‘Have-nots’

Inter-European Division financial report highlights God’s blessings, challenges ahead.

By: Inter-European Division, and Adventist Review

The financial report of the Inter-European Division (EUD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, presented by Norbert Zens, the region’s treasurer, to the Year-end Executive Meetings, offered a generally positive picture for 2020. However, he said, there are some areas of concern.

Zens opened his October 31 report by quoting King Solomon, who wrote: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov. 3:9, 10, NIV).

Through this Bible passage, Zens shared with the 68 participants at the Year-end Meeting, connected via Zoom, his gratitude toward God and Adventist Church members for faithfulness despite the impact of COVID-19. In most countries during the most recent few months, the division has seen a good recovery from the tithe decreases in the months during the lockdown, Zens said. “Since the end of September, we are happy to report an overall tithe increase of 1.2 percent in EUD,” he said. Still, he added, “we have noted, with concern, that in some unions, we have very significant decreases in tithe. This is especially true in Italy and Spain.”

Tithe Solidarity Plan

To assist regions facing a significant decrease in tithe, a motion was presented to the Executive Committee to invite those regions that have had an increase in 2020 to share a portion of their increase with the regions that had suffered a decrease in tithe of more than 2 percent. Also, the EUD administration may top up the total amount received. 

This gesture of solidarity recalls what happened at the time of the first Christian church, the treasurer said, when the church in Jerusalem collected funds to help churches in need. “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality. At present, your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” The goal is equality, “as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little’” (2 Cor. 8:15, NIV).

The members of the EUD Executive Committee finally passed the motion, “EUD Tithe Solidarity Initiative,” unanimously.

Zens also presented the “use of tithe” report for the EUD. This report is given annually to disclose how tithe funds are used throughout the EUD. The report shows that about 58 percent of tithe is used for pastors, evangelists, and frontline workers, while 22 percent is used for the operations of the various administrative levels (conference, union, and division). The remainder is used for the support of educational institutions (9 percent), media outreach (4 percent), and direct evangelism (4 percent).

Impact of COVID-19 on Offerings

The second pillar on which the financial support for the mission of the Adventist Church stands is freewill offerings collected during church services. Zens reported that due to the lockdown, offerings in the EUD have decreased by almost 30 percent compared to 2019. While in most countries in the EUD the tithe remitted by church members has recovered very well after the lockdown, the division has not seen that so far regarding offerings, Zens said. 

Zens pointed out that it is important to understand that the funding of the church’s missionary work — for instance in Africa and the Far and Near East — relies strongly on offerings. 

Preparing for Economic Impact of COVID-19

In presenting the EUD budget for 2021, Zens once again highlighted uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19 on financial developments in 2021.

“An adaptation of the budget is necessary,” Zens said, presenting the budget’s strategic aspects for 2021. The budget presented has been reduced by about 8 percent in comparison to 2020. To maintain the budget’s alignment with the division’s strategic plan, Zens proposed a mixture of reduction of expenses and intentional use of reserves built up in past years. 

“This has not been an easy budgeting process,” Zens said as he thanked departmental leaders and his colleagues in administration for their support and understanding. “We do not know yet how the financial situation will develop in 2021; therefore, it may be necessary to adapt the budget as we go through 2021.”

Zens concluded his report with strong encouragement, quoting Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White, who wrote, “Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him…. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice” (Steps to Christ, 100).

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-European Division news site.


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What Are We Willing to Sacrifice for Mission?

EE ditor’s Note: Below is a transcript of a message, posted to YouTube on November 13, from president of the Adventist Church, Ted N.C. Wilson. Elder Wilson will release a new video each week. You can see past messages here.
Greetings, friends. I hope you have been blessed this week during the worldwide Week of Prayer. And now, as we come to the end of this special week, we have a wonderful opportunity to continue the blessing as we participate in the Annual Sacrifice Offering on Sabbath, November 14. 

You might be asking yourself—how can sacrifice be a blessing? Well, let me share with you an interesting story about something that happened about 100 years ago.

In the early 1900s, Adventist missionary work was thriving. Missionaries were leaving their homes in great numbers, traveling to faraway places to share Jesus’ love and the important messages given by the three angels of Revelation 14.

Then, tragically, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic struck, killing millions of people and plunging the economy into a deep recession. Tithes and offerings dropped, and there wasn’t enough money to continue supporting the missionaries. Church leaders were afraid they would have to recall them.

 So, during the Annual Council meetings of the General Conference Executive Committee, held September 20 to 27, 1922, in Kansas City, Missouri, the delegates prayerfully decided to ask church members to give a sacrificial one week’s wage to cover the quarter of a million dollar budget deficit that year.

 In spite of the difficult conditions of the early 1920s, members responded by giving more than $350,000 over the following year to what became known as the Annual Week of Sacrifice Offering.

You know, the sacrifice that our world church membership of just 208,771 Seventh-day Adventists made back in 1922 is remarkable when their contribution is translated into today’s dollars. If we adjust for inflation, that contribution of $350,000 back then is equivalent to more than $4 million dollars today in purchasing power! And again, if we adjust for inflation, that means that each church member at the time gave today’s equivalent of $20, as compared to less than three dollars per member given to mission today.

Now, nearly 100 years later, our church faces a similar crisis as COVID-19 shatters lives and the economy. As mission offerings decrease, the future ministry of Global Mission pioneers is uncertain. These mostly local missionaries specialize in reaching the world’s most difficult to reach people groups for Jesus. As history repeats itself, can we, as a church, repeat a heartfelt, sacrificial response to keep our missionaries on the front lines? Over the years, this offering has continued, with 100 percent of the offering going to frontline Global Mission work for planting churches in unreached and under-reached parts of the world and among new people groups.

 In the book, “Counsels on Stewardship,” we read this timely instruction:

“In the last extremity, before this work shall close, thousands will be cheerfully laid upon the altar. Men and women will feel it a blessed privilege to share in the work of preparing souls to stand in the great day of God, and they will give hundreds as readily as dollars are given now. 

If the love of Christ were burning in the hearts of His professed people, we would see the same spirit manifested today. Did they but realize how near is the end of all work for the salvation of souls, they would sacrifice their possessions as freely as did the members of the early church. They would work for the advancement of God’s cause as earnestly as worldly men labor to acquire riches. Tact and skill would be exercised, and earnest and unselfish labor put forth to acquire means, not to hoard, but to pour into the treasury of the Lord” (pp. 40, 41).

Today, dear friends, what are you, what am I, willing to sacrifice for Mission? But perhaps sacrifice isn’t the best word after all. Because, indeed, this “sacrifice” is actually a blessing! In Proverbs 11:25 we read: “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”

 If you would like to join in and be a part of this wonderful opportunity to give to the Annual Sacrifice Offering, I encourage you to visit Global-Mission.org/MySacrifice where you will have the opportunity to click “Give Online” and choose “Global Mission’s Annual Sacrifice Offering.”

I invite you to pray with me just now. Father in Heaven, thank you for sending Jesus who gave the ultimate sacrifice for each of us, who then rose from the grave and is interceding for us in the most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary, a real Sanctuary in Heaven, preparing for his soon return when he will take us to Heaven to be with him, Lord, we want to go with Jesus.

When he returns by His grace, we can be saved. And by his grace, we can also sacrifice here on this earth. For what sacrifice is it to us to share with what You have already given to us, and then to receive a wonderful eternal life as we submit our hearts to Jesus. Thank you Lord, for letting us sacrifice for others so that we can all be together in Heaven.

With you in Jesus’s name, we ask it. Amen.

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COVID-19: German Adventist Leaders Warn Against Trivialization Or Belief In Conspiracies

COVID-19: German Adventist Leaders Warn Against Trivialization Or Belief In Conspiracies

13 November 2020 | The leadership of the Adventist denomination in Germany has issued a public statement about the coronavirus. The statement rejects conspiracy theories related to the pandemic and warns against trivializing the virus. The APD (the offical German-language Adventist news agency) reported the statement was issued by Pastors Werner Dullinger (Ostfildern near Stuttgart) and Johannes Naether (Hanover), President and Vice-President of the Free Church in Germany.

In warning against trivialization of the Covid – 19 pandemic, the leaders said, “We see irresponsible behavior in this, which contributes to the endangerment of the population and carries traits of solidarity. We encounter this clearly and with the clarity of the factual discussion. The current development of new infections and the numerous deaths speak a language of their own that leaves little room for alternative interpretations.”

The statement also rejected efforts to paint the crisis as something deliberately engineered by powerful entities: “Here reality is taken ad absurdum and the complex interrelationships of a serious global crisis are reduced to an unprovable ‘alternative’.”

Denominational entities are not allowing dissemination of such theories through Adventist churches, institutions or media outlets.”

The leaders say, this is not a “muzzle” or form of “censorship”, but rather a policy issue regarding official representation of the church.

The statement is supportive of government-imposed restrictions related to COVID-19, saying legal and ethical considerations have so far been handled well. The denomination says these restrictions will need to be monitored in light of fundamental rights.

“Jesus showed his solidarity and was not afraid to meet the sick and helpless in order to heal them,” said the leaders, asking members to think about how to protect themselves and others.

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News Briefs For November 12, 2020

News reports from Southwestern Adventist University, La Sierra University, Loma Linda University Health, Australia and Newbold College:

From the NAD: Southwestern Adventist University has been selected as a recipient for a $90,000 Nursing Innovation Grant Program (NIGP) award under the 2020-2022 RFA (request For applications) entitled “Supporting Clinical Learning Experiences to Mitigate Impediments due to COVID-19.” Funding from this grant, provided by the academic quality and workforce division of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, will allow SWAU’s department of nursing to purchase additional simulation equipment and expand their clinical learning program on campus.

La Sierra University announced its upcoming Archaeology Discovery Weekend on Saturday, November 14 from 3:00-6:00 pm will focus on excavation projects in Jordan as well as ancient coins and the latest technology in the school’ Center for Near Eastern Archaeology. The online event is free for everyone. Sign up for a Zoom link here: https://ift.tt/2JP5lqn.

From Loma Linda University Health: A new sculpture honoring 115 years of nursing education at Loma Linda University School of Nursing was unveiled in front of West Hall during a livestream dedication ceremony on November 5.

The “Be His Light” sculpture, set in the 1950s, depicts the eloquent blend of a nurse’s faith and clinical practice to provide compassion, hope and the promise of wholeness.

Loma Linda University Health President, Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, said the School of Nursing is the oldest at Loma Linda University — enrolling students just a few short months after the purchase of the Loma Linda property, in 1905.

“More than 10,000 graduates are fulfilling significant roles in hospitals and clinics all over the world,” Hart said at the ceremony. “It is nurses who set the culture of the hospital — they determine the heartbeat of each institution.”

From Adventist Record/Colin Richardson:

A new website offering transposed hymns has been launched to aid musicians who play instruments of different pitches, particularly in small ensembles.

Hymns from the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal that are in the public domain, or that have permission from specific composers, can be easily accessed and downloaded for free as PDF sheet music, and printed as needed.

In cases where hymns are in the public domain, but where the hymnal arrangement is under copyright, other older (public domain) arrangements have been sourced.

The project was brought to life by Merian Richardson from Orange Seventh-day Adventist Church (New South Wales), who put in years of time and effort to make it a reality.

“I have been working on this project for eight years, since the 2012 SNSW Conference Big Camp at Jindabyne where myself and others in our music group found it tiresome having to transpose hymns for instruments such as trumpets, clarinets and saxophones when accompanying camp hymn singing,” she said.

Scrupulous care has been taken throughout this project, in consultation with David Petrie (Greater Sydney Conference) and Valmai Hill (Institute of Worship) to ensure copyright has not been breached.

The transposed music is aimed at instruments which play in B-flat, C, E-flat, and F. There is also music for instruments which play from the bass clef.

This is good news for wind, string and brass instruments in church ensembles, who can take advantage of the three part harmony arrangements when accompanying hymn singing.

The website can be accessed at http://www.transposedhymns.com.

From the Berkshire, England-based Newbold College Facebook page:

If anything can top our students’ amazing work ethic as they learn online, it has to be their makeshift desk spaces. This. Is. Brilliant. 👏🤣

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News Briefs For November 12, 2020

News reports from Southwestern Adventist University, La Sierra University, Loma Linda University Health, Australia and Newbold College:

From the NAD: Southwestern Adventist University has been selected as a recipient for a $90,000 Nursing Innovation Grant Program (NIGP) award under the 2020-2022 RFA (request For applications) entitled “Supporting Clinical Learning Experiences to Mitigate Impediments due to COVID-19.” Funding from this grant, provided by the academic quality and workforce division of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, will allow SWAU’s department of nursing to purchase additional simulation equipment and expand their clinical learning program on campus.

La Sierra University announced its upcoming Archaeology Discovery Weekend on Saturday, November 14 from 3:00-6:00 pm will focus on excavation projects in Jordan as well as ancient coins and the latest technology in the school’ Center for Near Eastern Archaeology. The online event is free for everyone. Sign up for a Zoom link here: https://ift.tt/2JP5lqn.

From Loma Linda University Health: A new sculpture honoring 115 years of nursing education at Loma Linda University School of Nursing was unveiled in front of West Hall during a livestream dedication ceremony on November 5.

The “Be His Light” sculpture, set in the 1950s, depicts the eloquent blend of a nurse’s faith and clinical practice to provide compassion, hope and the promise of wholeness.

Loma Linda University Health President, Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, said the School of Nursing is the oldest at Loma Linda University — enrolling students just a few short months after the purchase of the Loma Linda property, in 1905.

“More than 10,000 graduates are fulfilling significant roles in hospitals and clinics all over the world,” Hart said at the ceremony. “It is nurses who set the culture of the hospital — they determine the heartbeat of each institution.”

From Adventist Record/Colin Richardson:

A new website offering transposed hymns has been launched to aid musicians who play instruments of different pitches, particularly in small ensembles.

Hymns from the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal that are in the public domain, or that have permission from specific composers, can be easily accessed and downloaded for free as PDF sheet music, and printed as needed.

In cases where hymns are in the public domain, but where the hymnal arrangement is under copyright, other older (public domain) arrangements have been sourced.

The project was brought to life by Merian Richardson from Orange Seventh-day Adventist Church (New South Wales), who put in years of time and effort to make it a reality.

“I have been working on this project for eight years, since the 2012 SNSW Conference Big Camp at Jindabyne where myself and others in our music group found it tiresome having to transpose hymns for instruments such as trumpets, clarinets and saxophones when accompanying camp hymn singing,” she said.

Scrupulous care has been taken throughout this project, in consultation with David Petrie (Greater Sydney Conference) and Valmai Hill (Institute of Worship) to ensure copyright has not been breached.

The transposed music is aimed at instruments which play in B-flat, C, E-flat, and F. There is also music for instruments which play from the bass clef.

This is good news for wind, string and brass instruments in church ensembles, who can take advantage of the three part harmony arrangements when accompanying hymn singing.

The website can be accessed at http://www.transposedhymns.com.

From the Berkshire, England-based Newbold College Facebook page:

If anything can top our students’ amazing work ethic as they learn online, it has to be their makeshift desk spaces. This. Is. Brilliant. 👏🤣

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Patient-Monitoring Tech Lets COVID-19 Patients Recover at Home

Patient-Monitoring Tech Lets COVID-19 Patients Recover at Home

AdventHealth says 8,000 patients have already benefited.

By: AdventHealth News

With increasing knowledge about COVID-19, advancements in care are changing the way people recover from the virus — and helping curb its spread. At the onset of the pandemic, the two options for recovery involved either a hospital stay or total isolation at home, leaving many with nothing in between. 

To help relieve this pain point for consumers, AdventHealth began to offer at-home patient monitoring that provides for peace of mind and the safety of a care team, along with the comfort of staying in one’s own home, filling a potentially dangerous gap in coronavirus care.

After assessing patients’ conditions, AdventHealth is able to provide them with an oximeter, thermometer, and app that keeps them connected with a nurse who can monitor their biometrics and help guide them through their COVID-19 recovery safely.

“This technology is a significant step in AdventHealth’s consumer-focused transformation that aims to extend clinical care beyond the walls of its hospitals,” Reetu Singh, senior medical director of clinical documentation integrity for AdventHealth, said. Singh was responsible for developing the clinical protocols and overseeing the rollout. “Patients are kept connected with their 24/7 care team, who can intervene before a health episode occurs. The information and insights gained from this monitoring can also be extremely helpful in the event that the patient needs more acute care.”

While the benefit to the patient is clear, such as improved outcomes and reduced need for hospital readmission, the technology also helps health-care professionals and the community. 

“By safely monitoring lower-severity COVID-19-positive patients or persons under investigation [PUI] from their homes, health-care workers can focus their efforts on higher acuity patients in the hospital, reduce their exposure to the virus, preserve personal protective equipment, and ensure enough hospital beds are available to those in the community who need them,” Singh said.

Mary Pinkerton, senior manager of clinical support and patient safety for AdventHealth, led the implementation and deployment of the remote monitoring nursing teams, assembling a team that could provide both clinical and emotional support remotely to patients recovering at home.

“At a time when the world was living in such anxiety and unknown, we knew there was a need that we could uniquely meet to help keep people safe and ease their mind using the latest in connected care technology,” Pinkerton said. “We could hear in our patients’ voices that they needed emotional support at times through their recovery as well. Our remote monitoring nurses were there for their patients, however they were needed, whether it be an encouraging message to lift their spirits, joining in prayer, or even singing ‘happy birthday’ to those alone on their special day.”

So far, more than 8,000 patients have used at-home monitoring to recover safely from COVID-19 at home with the care of an AdventHealth nurse. As the pandemic introduces new challenges and opportunities to provide individualized care, the health system plans to continue implementing more consumer-centric offerings that meet patients where they are, even at home. 

The original version of this story was posted on the AdventHealth news site.


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In East-Central Africa, Church Leaders Thank God for Achievements

In East-Central Africa, Church Leaders Thank God for Achievements

At year-end meetings, they say mercies and miracles have accompanied the mission across the region.

By: Prince Bahati, East-Central Africa Division, and Adventist Review

During recent year-end meetings, Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders in the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) gave thanks to God for what they called the mercies and miracles that have accompanied the mission in the region during the past five years. The meetings were held virtually this year through Zoom because of COVID-19-related restrictions, the committee acknowledged God’s assistance. 

Among many other blessings, the division committee said they were grateful for exponential membership growth. The total has passed 4.5 million members.

In his report, ECD president Blasious Ruguri highlighted some milestones, including Total Member Involvement (TMI) in evangelism, new churches in unentered territories, and the brand-new medical school in Rwanda.

“We thank God for the wonderful things He has done. The ECD story is not just a report. It is a testimony of miracles,” Ruguri said. “The Bible tells us that miracles will accompany us in our endeavors with Him, and we have seen His hand.”

 

  • One of the buildings of the new medical school at Adventist University of Central Africa, in Kigali, Rwanda. [Photo: East-Central Africa Division]

  • New guest house at the Adventist University of Central Africa. [Photo: East-Central Africa Division]

  • East-Central Africa Division (ECD) year-end meetings at the regional Adventist Church headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. This year, due to COVID-19-related restrictions, most of the delegates attended virtually. [Photo: East-Central Africa Division]

Ruguri urged committee members to embrace the regional motto for the new quinquennium, which is “I Will Go Make Disciples.”

Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson commended leaders and members for their commitment to TMI, which boosted membership growth. He reminded delegates that they should never relax or let their courage grow dim in the proclamation of the three angels’ messages.

“Like prophet Isaiah, we must be ready to serve the Almighty God with humility. We must answer ‘I will go’ whenever He calls us,” Wilson said.

Secretary’s Report

In his remarks, ECD executive secretary Alain Coralie credited God for the mighty works accomplished in the division. Statistics reveal that the church is growing fast across the region. During the past five years, ECD increased its membership by 1,336,206.

Two cases illustrate God’s hand behind recent stories of success, according to regional church leaders. First is the South Sudan Attached Territory (SSAT). Despite serving in the midst of political tensions and conflicts, the territory has led ECD in growth. SSAT has more than doubled its membership during the past five years. Second is Burundi Union Mission, which has unflinchingly moved against leadership storms. The union has baptized the highest percentage in TMI rallies.

Coralie also said he appreciated the role of media ministries such as Hope Channel, Adventist World Radio, local radio stations, and various digital platforms for stepping into the breach when COVID-19 restricted church gatherings. “The pandemic will not stop the proclamation of the [message],” Coralie said.

Church growth across the ECD is not without challenges. Coralie reminded committee members that despite so many baptisms, many members were reported as dropped or missing from membership in the past five years. “For every 100 who joined the church in our territory, 10 left,” he pointed out.

Financial Report

On a different note, ECD treasurer Jerome Habimana underscored the role of technology in conducting church business. The regional church has started implementing the Church Finance Management System (CFMS). Habimana presented the system as an effective tool to manage church finances with transparency and accountability. He also praised God for blessing of the department he leads even in the midst of COVID-19-related challenges. Against some people’s worst fears, gross tithe decreased by only 1.32 percent, and gross offerings by just 3.71 percent.

Looking at the current financial trend, Habimana optimistically anticipated a bright future, as many of the countries in the territory continue to resume their daily activities.

ECD is one of the regional entities of the Adventist Church around the world. With headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, it includes 11 countries from Eritrea to Tanzania to the Democratic Republic of Congo. 


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Paul Richardson Voted Next CEO Of Adventist Today

11 November 2020 | The Adventist Today Foundation board voted on November 8, to appoint Paul Richardson as Executive Director (CEO) as of January 1, 2021.

Current Chief Executive Officer, Monte Sahlin, announced his retirement at the organization’s September board meeting, setting into motion a successor selection by the nominating committee.

Richardson has been a member of the AT board since 2013, and it’s Chief Operating Officer since 2017, with responsibilities for financial management, fundraising, operations, events, and the establishment of an endowment. “It has been my honor to be associated with Adventist Today, to have worked closely with Monte, and to now have the opportunity to lead our talented team. We have a very supportive board, and a highly engaged global reader/viewership,” Richardson said.

In his remarks to the board, Richardson laid out several intentions for the next five years. “We will continue our current best practices, adding continuous quality improvements; we will significantly shift the leadership to younger team members, initiate a shared visioning process for 2021-2025, make considerable progress on our endowment donations/pledges, and sharpen our branding continuity.”

Richardson has over 30 years of leadership experience in private non-profit organizations. Each entity has enjoyed a positive reputation in the Adventist denomination. In addition, the organizations Richardson has led have been financially stable enabling them to make a meaningful, relevant and enduring difference in their global communities. Richardson also was employed in the communication department of the British Columbia Conference in 1984-85, and was Network General Manager of the Positive Life Radio network from 2013-2017, which is based at Walla Walla University.

Monte Sahlin

In 2012, Monte Sahlin accepted the invitation to lead the Adventist Today Foundation, after decades as a Adventist church administrator, researcher, community organizer, and pastor. Over the past eight years at Adventist Today, he has transformed a North American magazine into a global media agency with seven additional digital communication channels and a reader/viewership that approaches a million people worldwide every month. He has built a team, and organizational structure that will sustain Adventist Today for decades to come.

“Monte will leave BIG shoes to fill, and yet I’m confident that by God’s grace and with our readership’s support and that of our talented team, we will be able to significantly build on what Monte has put in place these past eight years,” said Timothy Ruybalid, board chair. Sahlin will remain on the board.

If you wish to send a message of appreciation to Monte Sahlin, please mail it to PO Box 683, Milton Freewater OR 97862, or email it to atoday@atoday.org and we will make sure it gets to him.

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Paul Richardson Voted Next CEO Of Adventist Today

11 November 2020 | The Adventist Today Foundation board voted on November 8, to appoint Paul Richardson as Executive Director (CEO) as of January 1, 2021.

Current Chief Executive Officer, Monte Sahlin, announced his retirement at the organization’s September board meeting, setting into motion a successor selection by the nominating committee.

Richardson has been a member of the AT board since 2013, and it’s Chief Operating Officer since 2017, with responsibilities for financial management, fundraising, operations, events, and the establishment of an endowment. “It has been my honor to be associated with Adventist Today, to have worked closely with Monte, and to now have the opportunity to lead our talented team. We have a very supportive board, and a highly engaged global reader/viewership,” Richardson said.

In his remarks to the board, Richardson laid out several intentions for the next five years. “We will continue our current best practices, adding continuous quality improvements; we will significantly shift the leadership to younger team members, initiate a shared visioning process for 2021-2025, make considerable progress on our endowment donations/pledges, and sharpen our branding continuity.”

Richardson has over 30 years of leadership experience in private non-profit organizations. Each entity has enjoyed a positive reputation in the Adventist denomination. In addition, the organizations Richardson has led have been financially stable enabling them to make a meaningful, relevant and enduring difference in their global communities. Richardson also was employed in the communication department of the British Columbia Conference in 1984-85, and was Network General Manager of the Positive Life Radio network from 2013-2017, which is based at Walla Walla University.

Monte Sahlin

In 2012, Monte Sahlin accepted the invitation to lead the Adventist Today Foundation, after decades as a Adventist church administrator, researcher, community organizer, and pastor. Over the past eight years at Adventist Today, he has transformed a North American magazine into a global media agency with seven additional digital communication channels and a reader/viewership that approaches a million people worldwide every month. He has built a team, and organizational structure that will sustain Adventist Today for decades to come.

“Monte will leave BIG shoes to fill, and yet I’m confident that by God’s grace and with our readership’s support and that of our talented team, we will be able to significantly build on what Monte has put in place these past eight years,” said Timothy Ruybalid, board chair. Sahlin will remain on the board.

If you wish to send a message of appreciation to Monte Sahlin, please mail it to PO Box 683, Milton Freewater OR 97862, or email it to atoday@atoday.org and we will make sure it gets to him.

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Homosexuality in the African Church & Culture

by Arthur Sibanda  |  12 November 2020  |

“If anything happens to me, please tell my grandmother I love her .”

I sensed a tinge of desperation in Thomas’s text message. It is a significant crisis to be a Seventh-day Adventist and have same-sex attractions: the conflict between one’s sexual desires and one’s Christian beliefs make it easier to deny that he or she is feeling these feelings at all, rather than face the full implications.

Thomas (not his real name) could not explain the many “coincidences” that brought messages from strange males into his inbox, and how these interactions often ended up with him in bed with these strangers. Nor could he satisfactorily explain why he would risk inviting people he hardly knew to his home. 

Oddly, he would deny being sexually attracted to these men. He assured me that he wasn’t gay because he never had penetrative sexual encounters, even when he’d engaged in petting and other sexual contact. This seemed to be his way of exploring this sexual territory while ensuring that things didn’t escalate out of control. 

Unfortunately his reluctance to go all the way finally got him into trouble. One “friend” took note of his reluctance and saw an opportunity for blackmail. He threatened to expose Thomas publicly, and even get him arrested, unless Thomas did everything the other man wanted. Thomas feared his life could be in danger.

The cultural threat

There is in my country a strong crusade against what some see as the introduction of homosexuality into our society. There is a general revulsion towards homosexuality, to the extent that our late president referred to homosexuals as “pigs”.  Some African politicians have taken advantage of this revulsion by campaigning in opposition to homosexuality, which allows them to continue in office even when they falter in areas that have a greater bearing on the economy and citizens’ well-being. 

This is a threat that all sections of society seem hypersensitive to: while we may be divided in philosophical, political and religious opinion, when it comes to opposing homosexuality many seem to be in agreement. There isn’t the same unity, zeal and passion to oppose other more pressing issues, like corruption, that if ended could immediately end poverty and improve livelihoods. 

Religious leaders have publicly endorsed some politicians for their stance on homosexuality, even when these politicians grossly violate other fundamental human rights. They suggest that God is keeping certain people in power in order to prevent the legalization of homosexuality. 

Thomas in danger

The denial of same sex attractions has led to situations that endanger vulnerable people like Thomas. Thomas cannot deal with his attractions in a safe way, because he is not supposed to be having them in the first place! 

I was genuinely concerned for Thomas, and wanted to help him. This put me in danger, too. Homosexuality is illegal in my country, and as such reporting same-sex-based violence is a contradiction. There is a stigma associated with  even speaking or associating with people perceived as being homosexual. 

I consulted a colleague who had legal knowledge, and even went a step further to seek help from a member of our local police service. This was a huge gamble on my part. The police officer I spoke to didn’t take Thomas’s story seriously, and suggested that maybe I had cooked up the story about “Thomas” to find a way of reporting my own experience. 

Fortunately, in the end the threat abated: Thomas managed to cut all communications with the blackmailer. I have continued to talk to him, hoping he will eventually come to a point of acknowledging his situation so he can handle it more wisely.

The church and homosexuality

The church here does not know how to relate effectively to such people, especially when the surrounding society refuses to even acknowledge the existence of same-sex attraction. It is not uncommon to hear Christians openly support violence to homosexual people as a proposed solution to correct them—for example, so-called “corrective rape.” 

I am not here going to argue the morality of homosexuality from the Biblical standpoint. What I do know is that in conservative cultures like ours, the dismissive stance towards homosexuality is causing untold harm. We in the church fear that having frank and open dialogue on homosexuality translates to endorsing sinful living. Thus we ignore a significant population of people who secretly struggle through the maze of making sense of their sexuality in a very intolerant society and an unsympathetic church atmosphere. 

Our church leaders in our conservative cultures don’t want to acknowledge that the LGBTQ community exists within our church walls. Instead, we tend to stereotype every person with same sex attractions. We cite the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of how homosexual people, if allowed to thrive, will end up turning whole cities gay, with people knocking on the doors of strangers demanding gay sex. To many here, all gay people are hedonistic and resort to sexual violence. 

Fear and danger

It has not helped that we have seen videos and pictures of gay parades in the west in which the LGBT community seems militant and confrontational in asserting their rights, such as marches flagrantly displaying nudity and passionate embraces. That level of exhibitionism scares us to the core. We are afraid that this is what will happen locally if we start accepting gay people. We fear every gay person is a militant activist trying to force us to accept them, and that all interactions with them may end up changing us to become like them.

It would be dangerous for people here to seek fellowship from such advocacy groups. Nor would these groups help them come to an effective relationship with our Creator and Saviour. Such a path would more likely lead to a loss of faith in a Creator God who, they might reason, is unable to prevent same sex attractions from developing in the lives of His creatures. The same-sex-attracted people in our congregations are genuinely seeking God, while trying to make sense of the realities of their sexual experience within a matrix of beliefs that define their orientation as far from the ideal which God had designed in the beginning. For some, this struggle has gone on for years without any resolution. Others, experimenting like Thomas, place themselves in compromising situations while hoping their attractions will disappear.

As a nurse I’ve cared for many people with illnesses and genetic conditions who had no choice about the situation they were in. While not a precise comparison, it does remind me that homosexuals, too, have not chosen the situation they are grappling with. The church in conservative areas of the world is not yet recognising and acknowledging the existence of this group of people within our midst. Members with same sex attractions who choose to remain within the church secretly form forums with those experiencing the same issues, and try to give support, seek meaning and purpose together, while hiding any suspicions or hints to outsiders on the realities of their struggle. We seem to be content with the unofficial status of the LGBTQ community, resembling the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which was once implemented in the United States armed forces. We have too much on the table to entertain a subject that is way too uncomfortable and controversial in our culture and society.

Compassion and acceptance

This is not an essay on the causation of same sex attractions, or a speculation on whether these urges can be permanently discarded. It is an appeal for a compassionate way of relating to these, our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a subject that is complex in its implications, but I feel strongly the need at least to encourage a church environment that is safe, open and healing.

Scripture disapproves of sexual immorality. When speaking to a group struggling with unconventional sexual relationships, Paul said, “Some of you were once like that, but you have been made clean and holy. You have been made right in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11. When Paul says “some of you,” he implies that these people were known in the church, not hidden or neglected. It is also evident that whatever the resolution was, it was from “the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit.” All of this says that they had been welcomed into fellowship of the Christian community, and afforded adequate space to access the presence of God as their source of strength. 

I believe that when Paul speaks of their becoming “clean and holy,” whatever he meant by that, it was the result of a process, not a microwaved instantaneous event. These individuals had grappled with their problems, as Christians. We need to be patient with each other in our different journeys. Even when culture and society ostracize and vilify those going through same sex attractions, the church should not be seen picking up stones of condemnation to throw at those for whom Christ willingly gave His life. We need to stop denying and dismissing our brothers and sisters, but seek to reach out to them with the same kindness and gentleness extended to us. 


Arthur Sibanda is a mental health nurse in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. He and his wife, Mercy, have one daughter, Nobukhosi Tashanta. He enjoys writing, composing songs, and singing, and is also involved in a ministry helping people overcome sexual brokenness.

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