First Mission Board Meeting Reviews Plans
to Centralize Adventist Mission Operations
Church’s Institute of World Mission expected to move to headquarters
BY ELIZABETH LECHLEITNER, Adventist News Network
The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists’ newly formed Mission Board recently reviewed plans to streamline the church’s global mission activities, including the processing of church missionaries and volunteers.
A previous analysis of the church’s mission operations revealed a “fragmented” approach to oversight, often resulting in administrative redundancies. Top church executives approved the board’s formation in 2010 in an effort to coordinate the church’s global outreach and better manage mission resources.
Church leaders said they’re confident that actions taken by the Mission Board will result in smoother, more efficient operations.
Among ideas reviewed during the board’s first meeting is a plan to centralize the church’s mission operations at world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Initial restructuring has already begun. Where previously the world church’s Secretariat and Treasury departments worked separately to process interdenominational employees (IDEs) and Adventist volunteers—often resulting in duplication—the process now enlists their joint efforts in cooperation with Adventist Mission.
Plans are in place for both departments to share closer workspaces at headquarters, said world church treasurer Robert E. Lemon. As restructuring progresses, the church’s Institute of World Mission is expected to follow suit, moving from the campus of church-run Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, to world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. While church officials said they have invited the institute’s three faculty members to move, no information was available on whether the members plan to accept.
Since 1966 the Institute of World Mission has helped smooth the transition between cultures for thousands of missionaries and volunteers. The institute currently trains up to 120 missionaries and their families per year during intensives held worldwide.
More than a symbolic gesture, the move would invite close cooperation between the institute and mission operations at church headquarters, leaders said.
Several Mission Board members questioned the decision to move the institute, citing the nature of its work, which they said thrives in an academic environment and requires a degree of independence from church headquarters.
The institute provides a “nonthreatening environment” for incoming IDEs, one member said. “The academic setting allows for honest, deep reflection that some may be uncomfortable doing in front of ‘the brethren.’ [The institute] has always been a voice that will listen to concerns that is not directly tied to headquarters. I think we would miss that.”
Calling such concerns “valid,” world church undersecretary Homer Trecartin said every effort would be made to “maintain [the institute’s] independence, but benefit from their ideas and perspective.”
“It is vital that IDEs are able to talk with [institute faculty] and not feel like they’re talking to their boss,” Trecartin said.
As plans to relocate the institute move forward, institute faculty will not become associate secretaries at world church headquarters, nor will their jobs become elected positions, Trecartin said. They will also maintain a separate cost center, he added.
Explaining the rationale behind the move, world church secretary G. T. Ng cited mutual benefit. “We need their contributions. They’ve been missionaries in the field. They have practical experience. And they’ll gain the global mission perspective we have. It’s collaboration that brings us together,” he said.
Mission Board members also heard a report on urban ministry, a current major mission emphasis from church administration. Ministry to large cities has historically proved challenging, but community-based outreach is generating results, said associate secretary Gary Krause, who serves as Adventist Mission director.
As the Mission Board continues to centralize Adventist outreach, the number of missionaries working to establish the Adventist Church in the most unentered parts of the world is expected to increase, church leaders said.
“We can only applaud when our church launches a serious detailed plan to make our mission strategy and missionary sending more coordinated and efficient,” said Adventist missiologist Jon Dybdahl, who recently reviewed the Mission Board’s plans. “We pray that as the process unfolds, careful broad-based analysis will lead to wise action that truly benefits our mission endeavors.”
The Mission Board is expected to meet again this summer.