Silver Spring, Maryland, United States …. [ANN Staff]

The staff of Adventist News Network expresses heartfelt gratitude to our readers and contributors for your support in 2003. With prayers for God’s blessings during the coming year, we share some highlights from the 2003 ANN bulletin:

In 2003, membership in the Seventh-day Day Adventist Church surpassed 13.3 million people, with some 700,000 new members. An estimated 20 million people overall, members and non-members, attend Adventist Church worship services each week.

This year also saw the launch of Sow 1 Billion–an ambitious world church initiative to print and distribute 1,000 million invitations to study the Bible. Five hundred million of the small brochures in many languages have already been printed.

While church members in South America, Inter-America and Asia began distributing the brochures in September, distribution in other world regions will begin in early 2004. The world church now faces the task of preparing for a potential flood of Bible study requests; Bible Correspondence School leaders say this will be the biggest challenge of Sow 1 Billion.

Adventists joined in Kenya’s “Total War on AIDS” initiative in March. With 26.6 million people infected with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is affecting the Adventist Church in that region. In December, church president Pastor Jan Paulsen called for every church in Africa to be a support center for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Church members in Baghdad were able to attend services for all but one week during the Iraqi conflict. An explosion at the American Red Cross 200 meters away shattered the windows of the Baghdad Adventist Church in October. Two other Adventist churches opened this year in Iraq.

Rear Admiral Barry Black, an Adventist chaplain for the United States Navy, was selected as the chaplain for the United States Senate and took up his new post in August. He is the first military chaplain, the first African-American and the first Seventh-day Adventist pastor in this position.

Attorney James Standish, the church’s liaison to the United States Congress, appeared on C-SPAN in August to support the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a proposed law in the United States that would extend employment protection to those employees who wish to observe particular days of worship. In October, a co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Hillary Clinton, commended the Adventist Church for its commitment to “Preach, Teach and Heal,” during a taping with the Adventist Television Network.

This year found Adventists continuing new ways of evangelism, whether in a café in Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, or the United States; holding church services in a hotel lobby; or by playing volleyball in prison in Latvia or soccer in Ecuador.

Pastor Jan Paulsen met with church youth in a live global telecast in August. The event was aimed at connecting young people with their church. Young people, Paulsen said, comprise about half of the 20 million persons attending weekly worship services.

The church’s women’s ministries department held a conference in Paris in September, a first for the church in France.

The Adventist Church was one of nine faith groups that gained recognition from the government of Croatia. The July signing of the pact fully recognizes the church’s activities.

In September Pastor Jan Paulsen led an all-day celebration of the 150th anniversary of the church’s Sabbath School program in Rochester, New York. In 1853–only a few years after the first group of Sabbath-keeping Adventists was formed in Washington, New Hampshire–James White, one of the founders of the Adventist Church, organized the first regular Sabbath School in Rochester. Today millions of people around the world each week use the Sabbath School lessons prepared and published by the Adventist Church.

The church held its first communication congress in South America, organized at the Brazil Adventist University in Engenheiro Coelho, near Sao Paulo in July. Much of the congress program was organized to create awareness about communication strategies and methods, as well as to increase involvement in the already existing technical infrastructure of communication.

The Adventist Church in South America has the second largest concentration of Adventists internationally with 1.9 million baptized members. Brazil, the largest single-country membership with 1.2 million Adventists, will gain a chapter of the International Religious Liberty Association, a group dedicated to standing up for freedom of worship.

In November it was announced that Andrews University Press, part of the church-owned school, has republished, after a 40-year hiatus, the book “Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine.” Adventist scholars call the book a “positive and aggressive statement of Adventist beliefs.”

The Adventist Church on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, once known as an entirely “Adventist culture,” was officially restructured as a “company” in May. A baby girl was born on the island in September–the first birth on the island in 17 years.

In February the church opened its first publishing house in Israel, “Chaim Veshalom,” or “Life and Peace.” The church has ministered in Israel for 107 years and has 2,000 members.

In July a 25-year-old Adventist in Korea won the right to serve as a medic in the Korean Army. He wanted to both fulfill a national service requirement and observe the Sabbath, or Saturday. Conscientious objection in that country still remains an issue of concern. Another Korean court said in a December ruling that conscientious objection based on religious faith contradicts military duty.

Kaare Lund, Adventist Development and Relief Agency director for Norway, and two other ADRA colleagues in Liberia were murdered in March. Lance Gersbach, missionary business manager at Atoifi Adventist Hospital in the Solomon Islands, was murdered in May–a killing blamed on an ongoing land feud.

This year ends with sad news from Palau, an island nation in the South Pacific, where a Seventh-day Adventist missionary family was attacked and killed in their home Dec. 22 from what is being called a robbery turned homicide. Pastor Ruimar Duarte DePaiva, 42, his wife, Margareth, 37, and their son Larisson, 11, were killed, while their 10-year-old daughter was hospitalized after the attack. Local resident Justin Hirosi, 43, is in custody and faces some 20 criminal charges including murder, and kidnapping and assault on the DePaiva’s daughter.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) offices in Germany and Turkey are assessing damage from the severe earthquake that rocked the ancient city of Bam, Iran, Dec. 26. ADRA’s initial response includes providing blankets, petroleum heaters and canisters, tents, mattresses, jackets and biscuits.

Annual Council – October 2003:

The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, or world church headquarters, celebrated 140 years since its establishment in 1863.

The church’s executive committee voted to establish a ministry-related graduate program in Africa. This will be the first Adventist graduate program on the continent, which has 34 percent of Seventh-day Adventists.

The Adventist Television Network launched the Hope Channel, featuring programming for a home audience. Previous programming was designed for in-church viewing.

For the first time ever, the church released a statement of guidelines on employer-employee relations. While previous actions by church leadership have generally been in response to specific issues raised in North America, this statement is intended to address global issues.

Annual Council delegates voted to create a Center for World Evangelism, to be based at the world headquarters. Mark A. Finley, speaker/director of the “It Is Written” global Adventist television broadcast, was nominated and elected as both a field secretary for the world church and as director of the evangelism center.

Mike Ryan, director of the church’s Global Mission initiative, was made a general vice president of the world church with responsibility for strategic planning.

Delegates also voted to make financial audits of the church’s world headquarters more independent. A separate financial audit review committee will not have church administrators as members. The changes were proposed to strengthen the “structural independence” of financial audit reviews in the wake of financial scandals in secular businesses. The church, in turn, wants to demonstrate its value of “transparency, integrity and accountability in its organizational structure,” church leaders said.

Adventists in the Arts:

Church member Herbert Blomstedt, conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, Germany, was given the “Order of Merit” by the president of the republic. He has led the orchestra since 1996, and has more than 40 years of conducting experience.

Lithuanian poetess Zita Kirsnauskaite had to restrict herself during the years of the Soviet system to write solely for herself. She now openly writes about relationships between God and people. Critics have called her the “rising star of religious poetry.”

Russian poetess Natalia Scheglova has published two volumes of poetry, and a short documentary about her life won a major award at a Ukrainian film festival.

German Filmmaker Christoph Silber’s “Goodbye Lenin” won six top prizes at the European film awards in Berlin.

Filmmaker Terry Benedict, a Californian, is working on a documentary, “The Conscientious Objector,” based on the life and experiences of Desmond T. Doss, a U.S. Army medic and the only non-combatant to receive the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Second World War.

Copyright © 2003 Adventist News Network .

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