Rajmund Dabrowski
Director

The common, unchangeable aspect of our lives is change itself. This touches the way we live and affect life, the way we worship and witness to our faith, and the way we communicate. Seventh-day Adventists are no exception in this regard.

The mission statement of the Communication Department is: Building bridges of hope.1 To make it happen, we endeavored to reach the diverse church audiences with an open and responsible communication program, including effective use of contemporary communication
technologies.

Activities of the department are an _expression of the overall world church communication strategy2: Seventh-day Adventists will communicate hope by focusing on the quality of life that is complete in Christ.

Adventists are not newcomers to the world of communication. In 1912 the church pioneered press relations. The religious communication pages include Adventists as pioneers in broadcasting (H.M.S. Richards, William Fagal, and George Vandeman). Eleven years ago Adventists successfully utilized modern communication technologies in mission, beginning with the CompuServe forum. Then came the Internet and thousands of Web pages for local churches, institutions, and missionary endeavors. Add satellite broadcasts with NET programs, distance learning, church business session uplinks, and mission stories that today can be watched on TV at home and on thousands of downlink sites on all continents.

The challenge, however, rests not on being effective in creating workable systems (though resources are always an issue to tackle) and using state-of-the-art hardware; the challenge has been--and continues to be--to present the content of the message in attractive, user-friendly, compelling, and persuasive ways.

Today the department has nine staff members and looks after the following basic functions: news and information, public relations, media relations and media productions, crisis communication, and online services. It also coordinates the activities of the Adventist News Network (ANN) news agency, and facilitates the church's Web page on www.adventist.org that in 2004 received a new look and changed the church's window for the world.

Adventist News Network3 reports that a total of more than 1,500 news items are written, edited, and distributed globally each week. These stories have been picked up throughout the Adventist Church family. Hundreds of church Web sites link to ANN dispatches via "syndication," and display the stories to their constituencies. For 16 months ANN also produced, in cooperation with Adventist Television Network, a weekly newscast, Adventist NewsLine. The program is envisioned to continue as a weekly feature on the church's Hope Channel.4

Among the most challenging developments in the past few years was an international effort to harness the potential for evangelism through the Internet.5 A Global Internet Evangelism Network (GIEN) was born as an initiative of the Council on Evangelism and Witness, with the support of the ASI Technology Committee, relying on the lay initiatives of TAGNET and the Sta-online Forum in Germany, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in February 2005. Millions of people are logging in, and the reality of the so-called "10/40 window" offers the church a challenge that must not be missed. GIEN is not a status quo group, one leader says, "new ideas must be put into practice for the benefit of the mission."

Assisting the office of the General Conference president, the department coordinated a global telephone conference with church leaders internationally, as well as three Let's Talk live television programs produced with Jan Paulsen in conversation with the church's youth, and promoted world church mission strategies and initiatives, such as the three strategic values (growth, unity, and quality of life), Go One Million, and Sow 1 Billion, among others.

Among the public relations achievements of the quinquennium, the following can be listed: Establishing a contemporary visitors' center6 at the church's world headquarters, and developing an ongoing program to showcase initiatives and ministries of the church, known as the Gallery Wall in the General Conference Auditorium. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, presented the church with the need for an unprecedented response. The result was full-page ads placed in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and positioning the church as an active and caring community member as the world came together over this tragedy.

A selective view of Adventist communication around the world reveals how the challenges of the day are met, and how effective and responsive we are to the ever-developing technologies and media for the iGeneration.

  • South Pacific region: Chasing Utopia television and DVD series of programs compete with secular mind-sets, introducing a positive Christian outlook on everyday commonplace situations; health and lifestyle radio spots are available on 340 stations in Australia; the church's Web site is targeting the community, not church members only; and the church's corporate identity (logo) was enriched to expand the "Adventist brand" to all church institutions, including education and health.
  • North American region: An annual Christmas television show is produced in partnership with Florida Hospital and broadcast on 150 outlets. Lifelines, a public service of the church, provides practical answers to common health questions through 30- or 60-second spots circulated to more than 1,000 radio stations throughout North America; communication efforts in North America include an active program (society) for Adventist communication professionals; and the Adventist Communication Network (ACN) initiated a SonScreen film festival.
  • Southern Asia-Pacific region: Proactive communication training in journalism and media is paying off in media coverage; the church has been active in using telephone messaging in mission.
  • South American region: The church owns 78 radio stations, another 200 stations broadcast programs via satellite from the New Time Radio studios, and more than 2,000 radio stations air Voice of Prophecy and Light on the Path programs. In television, the reality is even more surprising, with more than 250 cable stations broadcasting 24/7 programming, in addition to some 100 open TV outlets; more than 400 Web pages are maintained by church members with volunteers producing Internet sites as well; Easter Week evangelism unites local congregations with a national media campaign, and each year the numbers of people receiving the Seventh-day Adventist message in this manner multiplies.
  • Trans-European region: LifeDevelopment and the Mind the Gap multimedia initiatives, begun in Great Britain, are reaching out to the person on the street in postmodern Europe; Hope Channel programming is viewed on Hotbird TV satellite; in Poland an eBible CD-ROM project was distributed as part of the national computer magazine subscription.
  • Euro-Asia region: Publishing materials about the Adventist Church in public magazines and newspapers, participation in radio and TV programs, and providing information for independent and government Internet sites is a priority for communication specialists in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries of the region; public media is paying much attention to the Adventist Church; since 2000, the Voice of Hope Media Center in Tula, Russia, received a quarter of a million letters from listeners and viewers to Adventist programs.
  • Euro-Africa region: The use of the Internet in evangelism and making the local community a target audience has been dominating the agenda of Sta-online Forum in Germany; in Portugal the church went public with a Bible World CD-ROM.
  • There is more that could be mentioned, beginning with communication initiatives throughout the three African regions, as well as Inter-America, and by the premier church institutions of Loma Linda University, Andrews University, and Oakwood College. All these efforts involved dedicated communication professionals to whom a tribute should be paid.

    In the words of Ellen G. White, "The character and importance of our work are judged by the efforts made to bring it before the public."7
    ________
    1 This statement was recommended and adopted by the world divisions at a world
    advisory in 2001.
    2 World communication strategy was adopted by the General Conference session in Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1995.
    3 ANN staff: Bettina Krause (until 2003), Mark Kellner, Ansel Oliver (until 2004), Wendi Rogers, Taashi Rowe, and Lynn Friday.
    4 In addition to the ANN staff, the Adventist NewsLine personnel included John Banks, Liliana Henao, Julio Munoz, John Torres, Dan Weber, Gary Eldridge, Marcel Eisele, Debbie Marquez, Edson Tanaka, John Beckett, and a group of international correspondents.
    5 Online activities are facilitated by John Banks and John Beckett, the www.adventist.org Webmaster.
    6 Coordinated by Reger Smith, the center was designed by Edward Samuel. It is a part of the visitors' tour program operated by John Torres. Annually thousands of guests visit the General Conference facility. The center is also equipped to serve as an Adventist NewsLine television studio.
    7 Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 128.



     
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