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11 October 2016 | Silver Springs, USA [Victor Hulbert]

On Sunday, 9 October 2016 the Netherlands Union Conference (NUC) closed a 44-year-old anomaly by changing status from a Union of Conferences to a Union of churches. The recommendation, made to the Annual Council of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church came as a result of a report from a commission that looked at the structure, history, growth and financial status of the Adventist Church in the Netherlands.

Pr Wim Altink“For quite some time we, in the NUC, were functioning as a Union of Churches, while our status still was Union of Conferences,” states Wim Altink, NUC president. “This created constitutional confusion. Now the decision has been taken about the NUC status - which is in line with the world church policy - this gives us clarity and we are happy to work accordingly.”

In 1972 the Netherlands Union realigned its territory, abolishing the North and South Netherlands Conferences and so becoming, in effect, a Union of Churches. The change was partly an effort to economise, but was also part of a plan to streamline union structure within the then Northern European Division.

Since then there have been various votes and propositions, but the anomaly remained. During the 44-year period the church has also gone through considerable change and is one of the faster growing unions within the Trans-European Division (TED) with substantial church planting in recent years.

Recognising the anomaly, and also sensing a need to strengthen ministry, communication and leadership development across the whole of the Netherlands the NUC has worked closely with the TED in formulating proposals to reinstate conferences. Two districts have already been established in the North and South of the country. These have been in operation for the past eighteen months.

(Photo: Brent Hardinge/ANN)Following a request from the NUC and TED, a Commission from World Church headquarters met in the Netherlands for 1 ½ days at the beginning of September. With representatives from all levels of administration and with detailed presentations, the commission reviewed the proposal and responded very positively to the quality of the documentation and analysis provided. They also commended the team for their high level of commitment to an integrated work among the various constituencies (native Dutch, Caribbean, African, South American, and European), as well as the multiple church planting initiatives that have resulted in an above-average membership growth in the region, particularly considering its challenging secularised environment.

“The Commission was especially impressed with the fact that on average, a new Adventist church or faith community is established in our Union each year,” Altink states. “We praise God for the encouragement received from this Commission and by His grace we will continue to grow, in number and in mutual love and respect," he added.

This all bodes well for the future, but it was felt that more time was needed for the north and south districts to develop, including taking on more fiscal responsibility with their leaders becoming vice-presidents within the NUC administration. There is also a need for the Union to strengthen its financial resources before establishing fully functional conferences in the future.

GC Annual Council delegates 2016 (Photo: Brent Hardinge/ANN)The vote on 9 October is seen as the beginning of a process that, while currently changing the NUC status to a Union of Churches, lays out a timeline and criteria to move towards a Union of Conferences, perhaps by as early as 2020.

The change in status makes no practical difference in terms of representation at Division or World Church meetings. It does however, remove the forty-year anomaly and help the NUC move forward in planning a future of Mission and growth for its 5,691 members in a country of 17 million people where 67.8% of the population claim no religious affiliation. [tedNEWS]


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, director; Esti Pujic, editor
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