Silver Spring, Maryland, United States …. [Taashi Rowe/Mark A. Kellner/ANN]

The Seventh-day Adventist Church now numbers 13.4 million baptized members, with more than 25 million people attending weekly worship worldwide. The church grew by approximately one million members worldwide during the year, a period in which members offered 1,000 million Bible study invitations worldwide as part of the “Sow 1 Billion” campaign.

Also, the Adventist Church formally reaffirmed its historic belief in a six-day creation, and world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen held the second in a series of open, frank discussions with the church’s young people. Adventist communities in Korea and Sri Lanka celebrated centennials this year, as did the world headquarters move to the Washington D.C. area. Tragedy struck the church in the final month of 2004, beginning with the air crash deaths of four district leaders and ending with an uncounted number of deaths among the victims of massive tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.

These are among the major events in which the church was involved in 2004, as selected by editors of the Adventist News Network, the church’s official news agency.

Church Matters

Church scientists, theologians and leaders concluded a three-year series of conversations, leaving the International Faith and Science Conference meetings in Denver, Colorado, with an affirmation of its historic “belief in a literal, six-day creation,” saying such a view “is indissolubly linked with the authority of Scripture.” The church’s executive committee also affirmed the pro-creation stance at Annual Council.

In 2004, the church also re-affirmed its stance on traditional marriage, which Adventists believe to be between a man and a woman. The traditional definition of Christian marriage is under challenge with a concept of “same sex unions” in some nations around the world, with the potential to threaten both freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

Aiming to improve communication between Seventh-day Adventist young people and church administration, world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen met with students on the campus of Andrews University in an “open, no-holds-barred discussion of issues of concern to Adventist young people.” The one-hour conversation, called “Let’s Talk–Again,”

is a follow-up to 2003’s “Let’s Talk” telecast that included teenage members of the church. A Web site, http://letstalk.adventist.org/, archives the broadcast and offers a way for young Adventists to communicate with leadership.

The Adventist church also adopted music guidelines, which state that elements of sacred music should: glorify God, be the noblest and best, and contain a balance of spiritual, intellectual and emotional elements.

Religious Freedom

In the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union attacked the proposed Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which, if passed by Congress and signed into law, would protect Sabbath-keepers and other religious minorities from employment discrimination or unjust termination. Every year more than 1,000 Adventists lose their jobs or are denied employment over their religious belief, said Mitchell Tyner of the church’s legal office, earlier this year.

In Turkmenistan, the Adventist Church, whose worship center was razed five years ago by government authorities, was the first to receive government registration, which officially recognizes the 60 Adventist believers in that country. However, the church – and other minority religious groups in the country – continue to face pressures from the government, adherents report.

In India, Adventist leaders celebrated the overturn of the anti-conversion ordinance, which made it a crime to either force someone to change their religion or offer “incentives” to do so. While Christians, Muslims and some minority religions agreed that forcible conversion is ethically wrong, they said the ordinance could result in accusations of “inducements” that were never offered.

In Canada, a bill adds sexual orientation to a list of hate crimes. The “hate speech” ordinance includes disapproval of the homosexual

lifestyle referenced in the Bible and sermons. Being charged with a

hate crime in Canada, is equal to being charged with a felony in the United States. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada was among those that offered opinions before that nation’s Supreme Court on the government’s draft legislation extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

A court ruling in St. Maarten gave five Adventist medical students the right to observe the Biblical Sabbath or Saturday as their day of worship. The school also told attorneys it will schedule exams at times other than Saturday.

Church Growth

During the church leadership’s Annual Council meetings in October it was announced that the church now has 13.6 million members and that an average of 2,756 are baptized daily. More than 1 million people joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004. The 22,000 baptisms in India, and 181,000 in East Africa this year, are included in that number. Peru is one of the fastest growing areas for the church worldwide with an average of some 50,000 people joining each year. In many places growth is outpacing the supply of available places of worship

Unstable World

Adventist churches in Darfur, Sudan were destroyed and members were displaced without food, clothing or shelter. A Global Mission center in Sudan was also leveled in a militia attack, as was another Adventist church and several homes.

Humanitarian Assistance

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) continues aid in many regions of the world, including providing medicines to benefit thousands in Iraq, as well as water and sanitation in Sudan. ADRA helped victims of a train explosion in North Korea; victims of floods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic; and provided relief items for thousands in the Philippines. In Albania, ADRA established a new community center that benefits children and teenagers with special needs. It also launched a three-year counselor-training program to help victims of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Initiatives

More than a 100 delegates from around the world attended the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s first Global Internet Evangelism Forum, held at the church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The forum has ignited Internet initiatives to foster the church’s mission, and offered an opportunity for an international community of Web designers, technologists and church leaders to plan for an effective church presence on the Web and through the use of new technologies.

Adventist churches in every region of the world have responded to the “Sow 1 Billion” initiative to distribute hundreds of millions of Bible study invitations. The many different designs and languages used in the brochures reflect the diversity of cultures in which the Adventist Church operates. Some regions of the church have been flooded with requests for Bible studies, resulting in thousands of baptisms. The Bible studies, available in more than 95 languages, can be found via a special Web site, http://www.hopetalk.org.

Recognizing a need for enhanced community involvement, the Adventist world church leadership sponsored an international conference designed to inspire Adventists to become more involved in their local communities. The conference was held at the conclusion of Annual Council, one of two annual meetings of the church’s executive committee.

Deaths

Missionaries pastor Ruimar DePaiva, his wife Margaret DePaiva, and their 11-year old son were killed in Palau in the Solomon Islands. They were survived by their 10-year old daughter.

Two Adventists were among 200 killed in bomb attacks in Spain. Several church members died and many others injured during the Caribbean hurricane season.

Three administrators for the Georgia-Cumberland church district in the United States, and their pilot, were killed in a plane crash. The three

— Pastor Dave Cress, 47; Pastor James H. Frost, 53; and Jamie Arnall,

29 — were among five fatalities Dec. 2 when an airplane owned by the Georgia-Cumberland district crashed shortly after takeoff from the airport in Collegedale, Tennessee. Pilot and Adventist church member John Laswell, 36, and retired Adventist Pastor Clay Farwell, 67, also perished in the crash; Jim Huff, 37, a volunteer co-pilot and Adventist, survived but was injured and briefly hospitalized.

Copyright (c) 2004 by Adventist News Network.

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