Bern, November 6, 2013. [CD-EUDNews. Corrado Cozzi]. The leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-European Region (EUD) had their annual Executive Committee meeting from November 1-5, in Madrid, Spain. About 80 members came from the countries representing the EUD territory. As usual, it all began with a report from the president, then the executive secretary report followed by the Treasure’s report.
In his report the EUD President Bruno Vertalliergave details on certain programs he attended during the year, with his support and contribution. “All these program were mission and people-oriented” said the president “ and it was exciting to see how church members are involved.
Vertallier mentioned the Inter-Ministries Convention, created for inter-connection among all the ministries within the church.
The International Health Conference in Prague, focused on the important task of the church in sharing the message of healing in a time of moral, physical and spiritual disease.
Visiting the New York ‘Big City’ project, the EUD president had the privilege of conducting a series of conferences “in a very exiting atmosphere full of enthusiasm for the mission of the church”, he affirmed.
Attending the International Adventist Youth Congress in Novi Sad, Serbia, Vertallier pointed out how interesting it was to see youth coming not to be entertained, but to participate and to discover how to be faithful to the Lord, and be involved in the mission of the church.
Another event was the Ghana congress in Italy. If we consider the way they immigrated, it was amazing to see these people worshipping together in freedom and peace. It is still fresh in our minds what happened in Lampedusa some weeks ago, where hundreds of people died looking for freedom. When you see them and listen to their experiences your heart is touched. Thanks be to God, they are survivors” affirmed Vertallier, “it is wonderful to see different ethnic groups in the church, but all with the same purpose: people and mission.”
The president concluded his report highlighting one of the most humanitarian projects our church could provide. “I would like to identify one of the most emotional programs I attended”, Vertallier said, “it was in Waldfriede Adventist Hospital in Berlin, Germany, where a team of doctors are aiding the most needy and destitute in the world: victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I have seen and heard how these women have to suffer. I thank you with all my heart for what you are doing in Waldfriede.”
At the end of his report, Bruno Vertallier, thanked all union presidents for their engagement, support and involvement in this important task of the church to be mission and people oriented.
Gabriel Maurer, EUD Executive Secretary, presented his report giving a general picture of the growth of the church.
To be realistic, we are happy for new members, but at the same time the ones that drop out every year concern us. “We have to ask ourselves what we can do to stop this hemorrhage” said Maurer. “It is foolish to continue doing things the same way, but expecting different outcomes. Only analysis, reflection, vision and action can bring efficient change” Maurer affirmed.
At the end of 2012 the EUD had a membership of 177,874. At the end of the 3rd quarter of 2013 the EUD records a membership of 178,264 which represents a slight growth of 390 members, or an average of 35 members per union in 270 days, and one per week per union.
Looking at the exact figures during the first 9 months of 2013 in Europe we had 3,261 total growth. This is made up of 2,903 baptisms and 358 professions of faith. At the same time we registered 1,706 deaths and 1,054 dropped membership, and 163 are missing: the total sum is 2,923. “This data of 163 missing concerns me,” said Maurer, “how is it possible to miss members? Looking at all these figures, we should better coordinate of efforts to find clear solutions.”
More than 1/3 of church growth is lost statistically.
“We need to reflect on how to make people feel comfortable in the church and remain active,” said Maurer. The answer is not to become secular, but to bring church practice into harmony with its theoretical beliefs. Members have embraced the beliefs, but seem to need help in putting them into practice. This might create frustration and cause them to leave the church. “In terms of church growth, we could start with involving our own church members”, highlighted Maurer, asking the Executive members to consider it as an important challenge of the church leadership.
“While on one hand we can be happy that the fundamental beliefs are shared by an overwhelming majority of the church members (which is absolutely outstanding compared to other organizations), there are also reasons for concern, especially when it comes to the practice of theoretical beliefs”, the Executive Secretary reported.
Personal Bible study, family worship, the area of personal religious practice, is very deficient. No wonder Christian/Biblical values are at risk, even within the church. This explains the fact that divorce has a similar rate as in non-Adventist homes, why abuse is also happening within the church, etc. We have now identified the problems,” affirmed Maurer, “it is time to act.”
The Executive Secretary report was not only made of statistics. He also manages a Volunteer Office for Adventist Mission.
The impact and interest in Volunteer service is growing. Especially the “In His Hands” program has been helpful in the Big City Project of the Inter-European Division, as the “Impact Geneva 2014”project.
“We are thankful to report 9 volunteers in the Geneva project. These plans are great”, informed Maurer and concluded, ”We have to focus on the future, we should not only look to the past, but also to the present and to the future. We could do much better, by prioritizing and focusing on missions.”
When the treasurer presented his report, the main focus was on figures. But there were more than just numbers in his report. Norbert Zens, the EUD Treasurer, gave a detailed picture of the finances and some additional important comments as reported below.
“From the treasury's perspective,the executice committee is looking at the current development of tithes and offerings in the Unions as well as approving the 2014 EUD budget” said Zens, presenting the general situation in the EUD territory.
The current Tithe situation is quite divers within the EUD. Some of the Unions within EUD are suffering significant decreases in tithing. This is especially the case for the Portuguese and the Spanish Unions, where the tithe has decreased again this year by another six to seven percent. As a result of the financial crisis tithing in these Unions has decreased in the last five years by 17 percent in Portugal, and almost 24 percent in Spain. Of course this creates an enormous challenge for the churches in these Unions, as well for the EUD.
Therefore, the EUD is heavily involved helping these Unions in a special way to cope with the crisis.
As a result of the tithe increase in some of the Unions (Austria, France and North Germany), the total tithing figure in EUD is stable so far this year.
The second major item presented by the treasurer was to approve the budget for 2014 activities.
The total budget of the EUD is about 13 Million Euros. About 75% of that amount comes from tithe-sharing of Unions. The remainder comes from interests, subsidies from the General Conference as well as donations.
About 75% of the EUD budget is spent on division institutions, financial subsidies to Unions, division programs for missions, youth, education, women, children, etc. all within the EUD territory. The remaining money is to cover the costs of departments, the administration and the office management.
By voting the budget, all church leaders agreed to faithfully get involved in all projects and plans proposed. All of these projects directly or indirectly promote the mission of the church, primarily announcing the Second Coming of Jesus.
Exploring the future of the church, Zens affirmed: “Sometimes when I ponder about the many challenges we are faced with, I feel somewhat unable to meet them all. Therefore I found great comfort in a quote from Ellen White, an American author. In a morning devotionals she wrote: “There is a great work to be done for our time, and we do not half realize what the Lord is willing to do for his people.” RH June 4, 1889.
Yes, we are living in challenging times, but we should never forget that it is God who watches over his church, it is his task. “So let us trust in God,” concluded Zens, “that he will lead us and open our eyes that we may see what he wants to do for us.”
pictures: 1. The Officers of the EUD: Norbert Zens, treasurer, Bruno Vertallier, president, and Gabriel Maurer, Executive Secretary; 2 + 3. The members of the Committee;