01 December | Maryland, USA [James Botha with tedNEWS)
In a delegation headed by Pastor Eglan Brooks, British Union Conference president, the presidents of the three British Union missions, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales joined recently elected conference presidents from within the North American Division (NAD) at the Division Offices in Maryland, near Washington DC. The purpose of the training was specifically focussed on introducing the role, function, and expectations of serving as president of a constituency.
The three days of presentations which took place during the last week of November, included examining governance and financial models, and learning about the working of committees and relationships at every level of the church.
“Just as you don’t just place a doctor of a hospital at the top to run a hospital, you don’t just pick a pastor from within a conference, and make him president,” said Dr Daniel Duda, president of the Trans-European Division (TED), commenting on the importance of training and differentiating roles.
What follows is a summary of some of the ideas and concepts shared during the training.
God is looking for noisy presidents!
This was the application given from the story of four friends who carried their paralytic friend onto a roof, so they could let him down to Jesus through a broken roof, friends who knew where Jesus was, because of the noise. The wisdom – presidents need to be with Jesus, and the noise they make needs to attract others to Jesus.
How do you ask for help?
Another aspect from the story of the paralytic, was that at some point he had to ask for help. It is a question not only for presidents, but for every leader, how do you ask for help? Presidents know that they have a team of leaders who collaborate with them, and of whom they are “the first among equals,” but fellow colleagues and leaders are there to provide help and answers.
How do we do church?
It was a question asked by BUC president, Pastor Eglan Brooks, who expressed how concerned he is about what members experience. Expanding on this theme, he shared, “Our success and effectiveness will come because leaders align themselves with people who carry the interests of the church passionately. It is the aim of members of the church at all levels, and especially so from a leadership point of view, that we emulate the life of Christ in everything. It is when we think like this, that we become more effective.”
“We lead morally, ethically, and legally – the result of spiritual leadership”
In a lengthy statement of purpose to the new presidents gathered, Brooks laid down the hallmark of what he expects from presidents.
“We cannot continue to lead the church as we have done in the past. If we are to survive the uncertainty of the future, the leadership in our union, conferences, and missions, must be Spirit led in dealing with our officers, directors and associates, colleagues, and not least our faithful members. We need to value the relationships that we forge with each other as Christians, and we need to do more than what is spiritually right. We must do what is morally, ethically, and legally right. We stand in a unique perspective as a church in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – and including in the British Union, the Republic of Ireland.
Our organisation represents a church, a business, and a charity. Our conferences and missions do not exist in a vacuum. Each conference and mission should rethink its purpose. We are here to work in a collaborative way to bring the gospel to a dying world, to fulfil the mission of the Union and more than that, we are here to serve the world Church. All our work should be seen through the eyes of the fulfilment of the Adventist message to all the world in this generation.”
Dr Duda adding to these values commented, “The first job of the leader is to define and be honest about the status quo. Nothing will change until both leaders and members are aware of status quo.”
As part of the training, the presidents also looked at crisis communication. Inevitable that something will happen that could put the mission or conference in crisis, the delegation learnt about the communication process in such a situation. Reflecting on the recent global pandemic, Irish Mission president, Pastor Dan Serb, reminded the group of the need to be prepared, “Covid-19 has proved that crisis can occur at any time and leaders need to be well equipped in managing the unexpected.”
People and Process
Following due process is important; but minding we are always dealing with people. Leadership also means prioritising and choosing our battles. “It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that mission remains central and is not hijacked by artificially created crises and worldly agendas,” said Serb.
Reflecting on the training
Pastor Graham Allcock, Welsh Mission President, reflecting on the training experience said. “I have been so blessed to be able to attend the NAD new president’s orientation. Two and a half days of meetings have enabled us to better understand our role and responsibilities. Meeting other presidents and hearing their experiences give credibility and potency to the various presentations. An air of camaraderie, respect, and inclusion was palpable throughout our time together.”
Pastor James Botha, Scottish Mission president, noted that, “We all know that the different officers in church have different roles to fulfil. And although I have worked within church structures for many years, you do not just pick up what needs to be done, by simply observing another individual, from a different perspective. For me, one year on since I began my tenure as president, the time spent with these individuals was invaluable. I know that the content covered in this short time is going to make my work more efficient. I very much hope I will be able to serve the members in Scotland in such a way that God’s plans can be seen by all. I have learnt that service starts with a humble heart, and that is what I intend to practice.”
As these leaders return to the UK and Ireland, the question remains, will they become catalysts of change? From the teaching learnt in Maryland, the answer should be a resounding YES! While new ideas, new energy, and stronger relationships are important, nothing can replace the love and respect that needs to exist among members of God’s church in every area.
Our Presidents are looking for that love, trying to establish a place of belonging, and promoting engagement in relationships that demonstrate care, and because they do, they will probably challenge their members and leaders, to rethink the status quo! We simply cannot stay the same. What will it take to make the changes that will lead the church to where God wants it to go?
A warm thank you with much appreciation to the North American Division for allowing the BUC president and the presidents of the three British Union missions, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales
to share in their regular training programme. [Photos: courtesy of James Botha]