April 27, 2021 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News
Top Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the Inter-American Division (IAD) began their annual mid-year business meetings today by reflecting on God’s leadership, guidance and blessings throughout the territory during the past quinquennium. Despite the challenges of a lingering pandemic, IAD leaders praised God for His care and protection as the church moves into the new five-year term.
IAD administrators called upon God, before the committee members, to anoint and equip each church leader and member across Inter-America with the Holy Spirit to complete the task of spreading the gospel wherever God leads. Top leaders also pledged to accomplish the strategies and initiatives of the I Will Go plan focused on strengthening evangelism, education and service to the community across the IAD.
“We pledge that we will continue to serve the people of God in this territory through spiritual and transparent leadership,” stated Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America, alongside his fellow administrators Pastors Leonard Johnson, executive secretary, and Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer.Department directors also joined in pledging their renewed dedication to execute plans while inspiring and motivating regional leaders to get engaged in reaching every community with the hope of salvation.
The more than 160 executive committee members joined in the special online opening ceremony, vowing to continue to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14, and motivate leaders and members alike throughout Inter-America to make a personal commitment to sharing the gospel everywhere.
“Since our last executive committee meetings in November, our church has experienced difficult situations that brought us to our knees calling fervently on God for His intervention,” said Pastor Henry. Pastor Henry referenced the passing in December of Erwin González, publishing ministries director for the church in Inter-America, and most recently Pablo Carreño, treasurer of the East Venezuela Union, who died of COVID-19 last week. “We experienced the loss of two of our executive committee members, both great men of God,” said Pastor Henry. Pastor Henry encouraged all committee members to pause for a moment to reflect on the lives and the legacy of hundreds of leaders and church members who passed away across the IAD in the wake of the pandemic.
Executive committee members moved quickly at the start of the business meetings to vote on the nominating committee tasked with nominating IAD department directors.Secretary’s Report
Pastor Leonard Johnson, executive secretary for the church in Inter-America, gave a brief report on growth and losses of the church membership for 2020. As of December 2020, the IAD membership stands at 3,675,689. There were 94 new congregations formed last year, a significant decrease from 393 in 2019, stated Johnson. Baptisms went down to 85,463, without counting those who joined the church through profession of faith, compared to previous years. Nevertheless, there are signs that the church is moving stronger since the initial months of the pandemic last year, he said.
“Losses continue to be a challenge for us, but we are seeing changes,” said Johnson. Among the losses included the 8,831 church members who died last year, more than the usual, he said. According to statistics, there are nearly 4,000 pastors ministering in over 23,000 churches and congregations, which shows an average of 1,155 members per pastor or 4.7 congregations led by a pastor. With an estimated population of 301 million residing in the IAD territory, that averages one Seventh-day Adventist to every 82 persons.
“This report is more than numbers and statistics because we continue to focus on our strategic initiatives that are strengthening the church,” said Johnson.
Pastor Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer of the church in Inter-America, began his report by reflecting on God sustaining the church after a difficult 2020. “We have gone through and continue to go through challenging months but the hand of God has been felt through every month of the COVID-19 pandemic period,” said Verduzco. There were months of so much uncertainty for so many of our church members, but through it all, the church member in Inter-America is faithful and continues to give to keep the church moving in its mission, he explained.
For 2020, tithe contributions went down 9.25 percent compared to 2019. Offerings also went down 17 percent compared to offerings given in 2019. It’s not only in Inter-America that mission offerings have decreased significantly but also around the world church, said Verduzco.
“We must promote the missionary offering in our territory because God assures us of His blessings as we give to help others,” said Verduzco.
In the first quarter of 2021, there has been an increase of 2.3 percent in tithe compared to the first quarter of 2019, as well as an increase of 1.4 percent in mission offerings compared to the first quarter of 2019, reported Verduzco.“Time and time again God has guided the finances here in Inter-America,” said Verduzco. Even in the midst of the pandemic, all of the IAD unions were sent an additional 54% of regular budgeted annual appropriations they normally receive, he added.
“We continue to be committed to working hard at strengthening the financial system of the church because we are dealing with goods that belong to the Lord and we must take care of them,” said Verduzco.
Inter-America’s working capital was 183.09 percent and its liquidity 132.45 percent as of March 2021, reported Ivelisse Herrera, under treasurer for the church in Inter-America.
Executive Committee members approved the treasurer’s report and financial report of December 2020, and as of March 2021.
Leaders also voted on the proposal by the recent General Conference Executive Committee meetings to hold a special General Conference Session on Jan. 18, 2022, in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. Sixty-five delegates from the IAD territory will take part in the session that will work on amending the GC Constitution to allow delegates to participate by digital means in the future, if needed.
The opening day also featured presentations on outstanding growth and mission initiatives by each IAD department and ministry which made a made a difference in the life of the church in 2020 and the previous quinquennium.
For updates on Inter-America’s Mid-Year Executive Committee Meetings this week, visit us at interamerica.org