'Divine Human Synergy at Work'
Story by V. Michelle Bernard
The Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee met together in person on Nov. 10 for their quarterly meeting at union headquarters in Columbia, Md.—the first time 100 percent in person since the pandemic started in 2020.
New Jersey Conference president Jorge Aguero started the meeting with a worship thought, reminding the members that the church is God’s, not ours, and that God has more than enough resources to care for it.
In his report, Columbia Union president Dave Weigley, shared that many churches around the union are participating in evangelistic meetings this fall and winter, including 50 currently happening in the Pennsylvania Conference.
He mentioned some of the challenges the church is grappling with across the country and world, including the startling rates of membership turnover—four out of 10 new members, as noted by David Trimm at the recent Annual Council meetings.
He also called attention to research that says if new members make six friends at church, it helps them to be anchored into that congregation.
He also noted several upcoming conferences (to be announced) that will seek to tackle tough issues.
Other report highlights include:
- Jose Esposito, assistant to the president for Evangelism, shared that 8,000 people helped spread the word about ‘'Impac Columbus' online and on social media during the evangelistic series hosted by the Allegheny West Conference and featuring North American Division President G. Alexander Bryant. He also shared baptism reports from recent series in Allentown, Pa.; Frederick, Md.; and Moorefield, W.Va., among other places.
- Celeste Ryan Blyden, Columbia Union Executive Secretary, reported that there are 147,350 members in the union’s 856 churches and companies as of September 30.
In talking about her last year as Executive Secretary, Blyden, said," It’s about policy. It’s about bylaws, codes and regulations. It’s about records, stats, minutes, archives. It’s about organizing, nomination & constituencies. Most of all, it’s about serving."
She later shared about the recent historic womens’ clergy retreat where some 50 clergy from across the Columbia Union Conference gathered. Watch a video about the event here.
“We cannot say enough about how much we appreciate women who respond to the call of God and step forward and do mission in spite of some of the challenges that they face,” noted Weigley after Blyden’s report.
- In his report, Treasurer Emmanuel Asiedu said the union tithe was $110,566,644 as of the end of September. This is a record 2.86 percent increase in tithe over last year. He added that all the conferences are doing extremely well. “We serve a God that is powerful, and I believe that He gives us money not to hoard, but money for the mission, for education. So Columbia Union, that is what we’ll continue to do,” he said.
Asiedu noted that union funds also support evangelism. “We don’t just talk about the mission. We fund the mission,” he said, noting that when the union is strong financially, we can also support the conferences and schools.
Thanking the Treasury team for their good work, Columbia Union Conference President, Dave Weigley said, “This, how we work. It’s human divine synergy. It’s how we move the mission forward.”
- Kevin Krueger, president and CEO of WGTS 91.9, presented on the station’s ministry—which reaches half a million people each week. Besides their on-air stations of WGTS 91.9 and WGBZ 88.3, the ministry reaches listeners on the online stream, via videos and posts on social media and through their popular prayer ministry. They also meet listeners through food drives, fundraising efforts for various nonprofits and ministries, special evangelistic nights, concerts and more.
- After Krueger’s presentation, Potomac Conference president and president of the WGTS board chair Charles Tapp and Ryan Blyden, prayed for the ministry.
- Terry Forde, president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, said, “Yes, we’re here to physically heal people,” but also to “provide hope, healing and a commitment to relationship building along our journey of health and wellness.” He shared several stories of that healing in action. Watch here.
- Brad Haas, director of the Honors College at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., and Jonathan Scriven, Honors College associate director, shared about the school’s strong program that boasts a 100 retention rate.
- Donovan Ross, vice president for Education at the Columbia Union, presented statistics of the system’s 97 early childhood education centers through high schools which have an enrollment of 8,069 this school year. He said the boarding academies are enjoying the highest enrollment rates since 2016 with 558 students at the union’s four boarding schools.
- Kelly Butler Coe, director of the Communication Department, provided an overview of the many ways the Visitor team shared news and hope over the year, through the magazine, social media, the website and via a weekly Bible memorization plan on the Columbia Union app (download it here.) She notes that columbiaunionvisitor.com will have a new website next year.
- Frank Bondurant, vice president for Ministries Development at the Columbia Union, shared that in 2022, the union helped fund 61 church planting projects (22 new, 39 existing). Their department has helped secure $449,500 in funding for local church and ministry projects across the union this year.