Sofia, Bulgaria [C. Cozzi, CD-EUDNews]. November 21, 2014.
The agenda of the Year-end Executive Meeting of the Inter-European Region (EUD) usually includes reports from officers and department directors, analyzing subjects such as medium and long-term evangelistic projects.
The Secretary's, the Treasurer's, and the President's reports are the most prominant.
The Secretary's report
Gabriel Maurer, the Executive Secretary, presented an overview on the growth of the church. His intentions for the church statistics was not to present numbers and mathematical calculations, but to focus on issues that determine the mission of the church itself.
The statistics speak for themselves: in one year, our church membership has increased by about 600 members, 1111 baptisms and 888 people that joined the church through profession of faith, letters, etc.
On the other hand the church lost 1200 members (deaths, dropping out, letters of transfer and various adjustments). Thus, the growth rate of the European Adventist church is considerably low, compared to the Adventist Global Church, which is growing in a significant way.
However, a church cannot be defined only by statistics. There is something more, many large European cities have implemented intense evangelism programs as reported by Bruno Vertallier, EUD President.
However, the feedback does not justify the effort of almost all local churches, unless we consider two factors: The first is an intense work of sowing that one day will bear results. The average European citizen is shy and cautious and having to choose from so many religions does not make it easy to decide on a specific church.
The second factor is determined by the high percentage of members who decide to leave the church, for several reasons. Over the last 10 years 48,516 new members stepped into the church, whereas 42,214 members stepped out (through death and drop out).
By the end of the third quarter of 2014, the total number of members of the Inter-European Region was 178,681. "Baptism is not everything, but with the diminishing number of baptisms, the church itself will disappear," said Gabriel Maurer.
“If we lose just one generation, the church will cease to exist" affirmed Maurer.
He continued encouraging the members to consider this trend as a challenge to be addressed and resolved as soon as possible. "Looking at the facts is worrysome," said Maurer, "the challenge is a growing population vs. a stagnating membership, our response is a new mission focus on soul-winning." Maurer ended his report suggesting a stronger focus to answer today's challenges.
Norbert Zens' EUD Treasurer's report showed that our members continue to be faithful despite the severe crisis in recent years that diminished our church finances.
The main points of the annual meeting in reference to finances, was a report on the current trends regarding tithes and offerings, the authorization of the 2015 budget and new major decisions to be made.
“Generally speaking we can say that the EUD tithe-income increased 0.7 percent by September 30, 2014” said Zens. “Taking inflation into account we have to say that we are in a period of stagnation. This should not surprise us because of the limited growth in membership and the economic situation in Europe.”
The EUD tithe growth in the different regions is still diverse: “We are thankful that in Portugal and Spain the situation has so far stabilized, as the tithe has grown slightly or at least there is only a moderate decrease. Because of the financial crisis, considerable assistance is needed for these Unions”, declared Zens. It is noteworthy to see that tithe in France/Belgium and Luxembourg, has increased by almost 25 percent over the last five years.
EUD church members are still strongly committed to world missions. Although EUD represents only about one percent of the world membership, the EUD church members provide more than 9 percent of the world-mission offerings, totaling about 6 million euros. “We trust that God will continue to bless his church in the fulfillment of the mission entrusted to us”, Zens said.
Ellen G. White, an American writer, accurately said: “Every act of self-sacrifice for the good of others will strengthen the spirit of benevolence in the heart of the giver, connecting him more closely to the Redeemer, who “was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich.” And it is only as we fulfill our divine purpose that life can be a blessing to us. All good gifts from God to man will prove only a curse, unless he employs them to bless his fellow men, and for the advancement of God’s cause on earth.” (Review and Herald, December 7, 1886).
As a church it is important to act in solidarity with those that are facing special challenges. The Executive Committee voted to help the Ukrainian Union with 250,000 CHF to assist them in their challenges resulting from their political and economic crisis.
Norbert Zens concluded by saying, “Looking at the many unresolved problems in economy, finances and society it is absolutely vital to seek divine counsel and be cautious in financial planning. We can still trust our Lord who will not only guide us through these challenging times but will also lead us home”.
Pictures:1. Gabriel Maurer, Executive Secretary of the EUD. 2. Norbert Zens, Treasurer of the EUD. (C. Cozzi)