New Union Committee Receives Positive Financial Update and Ministry Reports
Story by V. Michelle Bernard
Members of the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee gathered today for their first quarterly meeting of the 2021-26 quinquennium. Some of the committee members gathered at the union headquarters in Columbia, Md., while a majority participated via Zoom.
The executive leadership team shared updates on mission taking place across the territory, highlighting members’ resiliency in the midst of a pandemic and after the deaths of several renowned church leaders.
Dave Weigley, president of the Columbia Union, reported that a majority of the union’s 860 churches are holding in-person or hybrid worship services, with the exception of Allegheny East Conference, where about half of the churches are meeting only virtually.
Conference presidents also shared reports on their recent and upcoming evangelism efforts. (Stay tuned for a story with more details.)
Rick Remmers, the union’s executive secretary, reported that, as of July 2021, the official union membership is 143,668. Emmanuel Asiedu, the union’s treasurer, says that tithe was down less than one percent in 2020, but from July 2020 to July 2021 the union saw a 16.17 percent tithe increase. Giving to world missions increased 10.10 percent during that same period.
Lisa Saveikis Burrow, the union’s vice president and general counsel, provided the new executive committee members with an orientation on the duties and responsibilities expected of them as they serve on the union’s governing board for the next five years.
Celeste Ryan Blyden, the union’s vice president for strategic communication, introduced the process and timeline for setting the union’s priorities for the 2021–26 term. “Today we embark on a process that will lead us to create a roadmap for our journey together during this quinquennium,” she said. “The desired outcome is to inspire a relevant and robust response to the realities facing our church and world, to provide transparency about our focus, and foster a sense of community across our union.”
Blyden explained that the process will commence shortly with a survey of union and local conference executive committee members. She also presented an overview of the many ways she and her communication team share stories of how God is working across the union.
Leaders from the union’s health and education entities also provided reports. Terry Forde, president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, highlighted the White Oak Medical Center’s second year of operation. He said that as a result of high levels of vaccination rates in Montgomery County, Maryland—where the health system operates—they have experienced a decreased amount of hospitalizations from COVID-19.
Employees at Kettering Health in Ohio continue to provide compassionate care, despite the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, reports President Fred Manchur.
Weymouth Spence, president of Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., announced that the university recently implemented a universal vaccination policy with good results.
Frank Bondurant, the union’s vice president for Ministries Development, gave a brief report highlighting the union’s three fully-funded Urban Centers of Influence, including the recently opened Urban Life Center in Baltimore.
During his report, Bondurant received a surprise, when his son, Grant, made a surprise appearance after completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. (See the video here.)
Rubén Ramos, the union’s vice president for Ministries Development, highlighted the department’s goal of inspiring 3,000 members to commit to making more disciples by the end of the quinquennium in 2026.
At the Columbia Union Executive Committee meeting today, members voted to appoint Kelly Butler Coe as director of Communication Services. They also voted to reappoint Harold Greene as director of Information Technology (IT) Services and six associate directors to serve for the next five years.
The reports we hear at these meetings represent what is being done to advance the mission in our territory, said Rick Remmers, executive secretary. Speaking of the newly seated committee, he added, “This is a good group and a great start to the quinquennium. Is a great place to be.”