Members of the Mid-America Union Executive Committee gathered on Nov. 16, 2023, for their regularly scheduled meeting to receive reports, vote ordination recommendations and review the proposed budget for 2024. The 35-member group is composed of institutional leaders, pastors, educators and lay members from all six conferences in the union.
The day began with biblical lessons drawn from Moses’ calling and leadership journey presented by Dr. Pierre Steenberg, religion professor at Union College. “Moses had to learn to trust God before God could use him,” said Steenberg. “Moses’ safety and success were in God’s hands, not Moses’…Wherever Jesus leads you He has a purpose, a solution, already planned.” Steenberg concluded by reminding everyone that even though Moses did not enter the promised land he was resurrected and is now in heaven. “God wants to do for us much more than we ever ask for…Think big and trust God.”
During his remarks, MAUC president Gary Thurber mentioned the current need for recruitment and retention of pastors and teachers across the North America Division. Thurber stated that the NAD has formed task force committees to provide recommendations for addressing this situation. Looking at the pay structure for denominational employees is one of the priorities for the Adventist Church in 2024.
Thurber also highlighted the recent evangelistic activities among the Hispanic community in the Minnesota Conference. Over 200 people have been baptized since the reaping event in September.
Hubert J. Morel, Jr., MAUC vice president for administration, presented the union’s statistical report, which showed a slight overall increase in membership across the union. Morel also presented three names for ordination and three names for emeritus ministerial credentials.
During the financial report, MAUC vice president for finance David VandeVere reported that the union-wide tithe has increased 7.25 percent compared to 2022 and that the union is operating under budget as of September 30. Vandevere also presented the 2024 budget and answered questions regarding the budgeting process and various policies. Parsonage exclusions for ordained ministers were then voted for 2023 and 2024. In his closing remarks, VandeVere referenced the “labor squeeze” that is a reality in every industry in the United States, and how that is impacting the work of the Adventist Church.
Education director LouAnn Howard presented the name of Carisa Carr to serve as associate education director following the retirement of current associate director Gerard Ban on Dec. 31, 2023. The committee voted unanimously to offer Carr the position. She has subsequently accepted the position. Arne Nielsen, NAD director of education who attended as a guest, reported that the division is now slightly above the pre-Covid enrollment numbers from five years ago in Pre-K-12 Adventist schools.
Union College president, Vinita Sauder who is retiring next May, reported that in addition to searching for a new president Union College is undergoing a name change to Union Adventist University effective May 31, 2024. Sauder also gave updates on new academic programs, new scholarship offerings and construction of the AdventHealth Complex scheduled for completion in 2024.
Continuing on the theme of health, CEO of AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Sam Huenergrardt outlined the projects, awards and new facilities of their health ministry, which continues to grow in the Kansas City area. He also explained the revenue trends and medical technology advances related to their growth. “Our whole person healthcare—mind, body and spirit—is the best,” said Huenergardt. “And we are continuing to develop our services.”
The final report was presented by Brad Forbes, director of AdventSource, the NAD official resource center. Forbes showcased new products and services being developed by AdventSource.
Concluding the morning was the dedication of the new Mid-America Union Media Studio (followed by a tour) and the presentation of the Excellence in Communication Ministry Award to Jodi Dossenko, communication director for the Dakota Conference, in recognition of her innovative redesign of the conference website and communiques.
The next Mid-America Executive Committee is scheduled for April 18, 2024.