Greetings Mid-America Union Family,

It is with great pleasure and delight that we would like to share with you some of the history of the Central States Conference of Seventh-day Adventist as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our existence in 2022.

The Central States Conference was officially established on Sunday, Nov. 9, 1952. However, its true origins date back to early 1946. That year the Central Union Mission submitted a request to the General Conference to establish the Central States Mission. The request was approved and the mission was organized on Jan. 1, 1947 in St. Louis, Missouri, with 789 members and Pastor T.M. Rowe as its president.

Two years after the mission had been established, Pastor F.L. Bland was asked to lead the six-state mission territory. Under Bland’s visionary leadership, the mission grew and flourished to more than 2,000 members in the next three years. Pastor C.E. Bradford was brought in as the Central States evangelist and he continued to help grow the field, baptizing people from Missouri to Colorado. Elder G.E. Peters from the General Conference offered great support and counsel to the new mission and was instrumental in helping it move from mission to conference status.

At the time of its establishment, the Central States Conference was comprised of six states: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado and Wyoming. In 1952 the African American population of those six states was 423,565. The task and goal of Central States was to tell these people of the love of God.

At its organization, Central States had 17 churches and two companies and employed 20 full time pastors, Bible workers, teachers and office personnel. The conference continued to grow and develop in the following years and it became clear that God was leading and guiding its mission. Walter W. Fordham was elected president in 1959 and brought a fresh emphasis to evangelism. Under his leadership, new churches were established in Wichita, Kansas, and Pueblo, Colorado, and a school was established in St. Louis.

In 1964 Elder E.E. Cleveland from the General Conference Ministerial Association conducted an evangelist field school in St. Louis where more than 150 people were baptized resulting in the organization of the Shreve Avenue Church, which was the first Northside Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

William S. Lee became the fourth president of Central States in 1966. He continued to encourage evangelism, and led the construction of a new office complex. Donald L. Crowder became the fifth president and the conference experienced a huge tithe increase under his leadership. By the end of 1974 the membership had grown to 4,246. Samuel Meyers from California became the next president and oversaw a huge renovation of Camp Shady Hill. Meyers put a new roof on the camp pavilion, built a two story bookstore, a snack bar and a registration complex in an effort to enhance the camp.

Sherman H. Cox, the seventh president of Central States, emphasized big city evangelism. One of the sadder times for many Central States members was when the conference had to sell Camp Shady Hill. Camp Shady Hill was a large youth camp where the entire conference gathered every summer for a two-week camp meeting convocation. There they would worship and play together and enjoy the many outdoor activities that the camp offered. However, when the financial cost of upkeep became too much to bear, the conference was forced to sell the camp. Be that as it may, a few years later under the leadership of Elder J. Paul Monk, the conference purchased its current office location in Kansas City, Kansas. This purchase enabled Central States to not only have administrative offices and hotel rooms to house guests, but to also establish the V. Lindsay Elementary School, and eventually erect the G. Alexander Bryant Youth Center for the community.

In 1994, Phyllis Ware-Lee became the first female conference president in the North American Division after Elder Monk died in office. Elder Ware-Lee was serving as the secretary-treasurer at that time, and she did an extraordinary job being the only conference administrator until the next constituency session. The membership and field continued to grow under the leadership of each of the successive presidents, Elder J. Alfred Johnson, Dr. G. Alexander Bryant, Dr. Charles Drake III, and Elder Maurice Valentine II, who all brought something unique to advance the work in the region. Because of their stellar leadership witnessed by many in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, many of our presidents went on to serve at the union and division levels of our organization, with Elder Bryant currently serving as president of the North American Division.

Under the current leadership of our president Elder Roger A. Bernard, the mission statement of Central States Conference is to live and proclaim the Three Angels Messages in the heartland of America, growing healthy, Bible-based, multicultural communities of faith. Even though our initial mission was to make sure that the everlasting gospel was preached to the black population in the Midwest who were being neglected, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we recognize that all peoples within our territory need to be reached. Therefore, the expanded emphasis on “multicultural communities of faith” keeps us locked into the First Angel’s Message of Revelation 14, which describes the everlasting gospel going to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.  

Pastor Tomas DeGyves, our multicultural director, has done a tremendous job in growing the Hispanic work within our territory, with plans for much more expansion. We are also blessed to have Kenyan, Korean, Ghanaian, Indonesian, Ethiopian, Sudanese, and other people groups reaching their people within our territory. After cleaning up our membership records due to some unfortunate poor record keeping in the past, membership was adjusted from approximately 15,000 and currently stands at 9,172 members in 54 congregations.

Even as we endeavor to facilitate growing the kingdom of heaven, we also recognize the need to be good stewards of what we have been entrusted with here on earth. Thus, in 2020 we were blessed to complete the construction of our new Central States Conference affordable senior housing complex. All 24 units of the “R. Bernard Villas” are now fully occupied by senior members of our Kansas City, Kansas, community. 

We thank God for the opportunity we have been given to literally brighten the corner where we are. We still believe that there is an opportunity to develop more of the 39 acres on the grounds of our conference office for the benefit of our members and community. In addition, we also plan to complete the unfinished portions in the G. Alexander Bryant Youth Center for our youth and young adults.

For 75 years, the Central States Conference has “come this far by faith; leaning on the Lord and trusting in His holy word.” We celebrate the history and foundation on which we stand, but recognize that our mission is not yet complete. As our theme for 2022 signals us “Forward” we strongly believe that “we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (CET 204).

Dr. Phillip Baptiste is the ASI NAD director and secretary/treasurer and Pastor Cryston Josiah is the CSC vice-president for administration.