Columbia Union Leaders Gather for Year-End Meetings
Story by Taashi Rowe
Rob Vandeman (left), union executive secretary; Dave Weigley (third), union president; and Seth Bardu (fourth), union treasurer, recognize Raj Attiken, retiring Ohio Conference president for his ministry.
This week presidents of the Columbia Union’s eight conferences, two healthcare networks and university met in Columbia, Md., for executive-level board meetings. The week started with Presidents’ Council where each president shared praises and challenges from their field. On Tuesday each conference’s top-three officers met for Administrator’s Council where they handled the business of the union. They also heard a presentation on crisis communication from Celeste Ryan Blyden, Visitor publisher and editor, and author of the new book, Crisis Boot Camp, published by the North American Division.
“Truth be told, bad things happen in God’s organizations, and my role is to help our administrators think, talk and work through bad times and bad situations,” says Blyden, who’s called to help with an average of 10 crises a year. “I’m thankful that our administrators recognize that half the battle in handling a crisis is preparing for it now—before it happens.”
The week also included training for some 60 treasurers, their associates, assistants and school business managers. “The meetings are informative [but they also] encourage unity in the area of our financial ministry,” said Karen Schneider, an associate treasurer for the Pennsylvania Conference. The day-and-a-half meeting concluded with a special prayer of recognition for Zenobia Seward, who will retire in March after serving nearly 13 years as treasurer of the Allegheny West Conference.
Committee Assigned to Explore Evangelism Initiative
Today at the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee’s last meeting of the year, members voted to create a subcommittee to develop a unionwide school of evangelism for young adults. They also established a separate young adult subcommittee specifically tasked with addressing one of the union’s six priorities for the 2011-16 quinquennium: engaging and partnering with youth and young adults to further the mission of the church.
“There is a crisis in Adventism,” said Dave Weigley, Columbia Union president. “We are getting grayer. The median age is 57—up from 52 when I came to the union just a few years ago. We need to figure out a better way to engage young adults because now when they leave, studies show that they are not coming back.”
Frank Bondurant, vice president for Ministries Development, shared the results of a visit to SOULS WEST, Pacific Union’s school of evangelism based in Arizona. He and a study committee recommended that a Columbia Union equivalent be formed in the union for the following reasons: churches need more trained, experienced Bible workers; it could be a life-changing experience for young people; those trained would return to their churches and revitalize it; and this would be a low-cost, effective approach to filling gaps in the cycle of evangelism.
The hope is that after finding a director, the school could be launched in September 2014.
Treasury, Healthcare Reports
Committee members also heard several reports. In his president’s report, Weigley updated committee members on the results of the North American Division’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee. He also spoke about two women pastors who were ordained in Ohio just last Sabbath. The treasurer’s report for the third quarter showed a 2.16 percent increase in union tithe and a 3.97 percent slide in giving to the World Mission Fund.
Other reports included ones from Fred Manchur, president of Kettering Adventist Healthcare in Kettering, Ohio. For some time now, the healthcare system has been sharing a little booklet in their emergency departments called Joining God in the Everyday: Tips for Living the Lord’s Prayer. It includes an insert where people can mail in their requests for prayers or Bible studies. As of today, there are 257 people who are doing Bible studies, 193 were visited and prayed for, 12 requested Bible studies and five requested prayer. “They are waiting for us to invite them in,” Manchur said with excitement.
Bill Miller, Potomac Conference president, reported on his recent trip to India. He said that two ago, when he visited India to participate in a 50-village campaign, thousands were baptized. The conference helped raise funds to build seven churches. “We dedicated those churches just last week, and they are already full. We didn’t anticipate the growth. It was such a blessing to see how God is working there.”
Union officers also recognized two committee members who will no longer be serving. After 2.5 years on the committee, William Joseph, is no longer eligible to serve as he was recently named Ministerial Association secretary for the Allegheny West Conference. Raj Attiken, who served 15 years on the committee recently announced his retirement from the presidency of the Ohio Conference. Weymouth Spence, president of Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., also recognized Attiken for his service on the university’s board.