Adventist Church’s Oldest Publishing House Asked to Consider Merger
Story by General Conference Administration
On Wednesday, June 19, the administrations of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and its North American Division (NAD) forwarded, to the boards of Pacific Press Publishing Association and Review and Herald Publishing Association, a request for the two organizations to consider a merger in the near future. The proposal comes in response to church administrators’ analysis of the current publishing mission setting along with related distribution systems. It builds upon the work of several commissions/groups that, over the past several years, have studied the challenges and opportunities arising from rapid technology changes in publishing, as well as changes in how society accesses information.
The boards of both institutions met separately on Wednesday, June 19, and each, by overwhelming majority votes, expressed agreement to consider a yet-to-be-developed merger proposal. In addition, each board authorized its chair and president to represent the institution on a task force whose assignment will be to develop a detailed merger proposal for future consideration by the boards.
Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the General Conference, affirmed that “publishing and distributing materials to advance the proclamation of the gospel remains a vital and integral part of the church’s worldwide evangelistic and witnessing program. We believe that restructuring the two General Conference institutions could serve even more effectively the future needs of the church, especially in North America, as well as for more general assistance to the world for print and digital content that correlates with information in other media platforms.”
The Review and Herald Publishing Association, located in Hagerstown, Md., and the Pacific Press Publishing Association, located in Nampa, Idaho, have been operating as General Conference institutions. The two publishing houses serve the General Conference, the global Adventist Church, and more specifically the NAD, as they derive the large majority of their operating resources from services to church members and denominational organizations in North America.
The proposal forwarded to the respective boards, through the board chairs, requests not only consideration of a merger of the two institutions but also a transfer of identity for these entities from being General Conference-sponsored institutions to that of being NAD-sponsored.
The combination of restructuring envisaged in the request placed before the boards therefore involves two principal concepts, with the expectation that both would be considered as a package and implemented together. The proposal envisions:
- Placing both Pacific Press Publishing Association and Review and Herald Publishing Association on the pathway to merger as one publishing house to serve the North American Division territory, as well as the needs of the General Conference office.
- Restructuring the publishing house governance model from a General Conference-based constituency and board of directors to a North American Division-based constituency and board of directors.
Over the past two years, the NAD has been developing a comprehensive approach to all forms of media ministry. “The preparation and use of literature by church members, by local church-sponsored witnessing initiatives, and as an adjunct to programs in other media platforms is a prominent component of this strategy. A publishing house closely linked to church infrastructure and intimately involved with planning, implementation and coordination of witnessing and nurture programs is a key component in accomplishing our mission objectives,” said Dan Jackson, NAD president.
Neither publishing house receives financial appropriations from the General Conference or from the NAD. Both publishing houses currently enjoy operating gains. Historically the Adventist Church has operated several publishing houses in North America. Each must make important decisions regarding its vision for the future and the investment of capital to maintain the efficiencies in the publishing and printing processes. Such decisions will have far-reaching impact.
A “Case Statement” presented to the two boards outlines a design for a positive, mission-oriented future for the church’s publishing ministry in North America. “It is a strategy in response to twenty-first-century realities,” commented Dale Galusha, president of Pacific Press Publishing Association. Mark Thomas, president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association, added, “Commercial and private publishing houses today are finding it necessary to redesign their business plans. We need to be proactive in addressing a rapidly changing publishing environment.”
In the event that the publishing house boards consent to reviewing a specific merger plan, a task force with representation from each publishing house will prepare a blueprint for merger. It is expected that a report from the task force would be presented to the boards by late September of this year. Each board will then have the opportunity to determine its response to the merger proposal.
The Adventist Church operates 63 publishing houses worldwide, with each operating under its own board of governance. The Review and Herald Publishing Association is the successor to the first publishing house, the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, incorporated in 1861. The Pacific Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, established in California, was organized in 1875. It was renamed the Pacific Press Publishing Association in 1904. A third General Conference-sponsored publishing house, the Southern Publishing Association, merged with the Review and Herald Publishing Association in 1980.
The General Conference administration asked that church members pray for God’s guidance upon church leaders and publishing house boards.