Our History

A Brief Overview: Our History, our Present and our Future

Facts you should know…

Regional conferences, authorized by this action of the General Conference Spring Council in 1944:

“WHEREAS, The present development of the work among the colored people in North America has resulted, under the signal blessing of God, in the establishment of some 233 churches with some 17,000 members and

“WHEREAS, It appears that a different plan of organization for our colored membership would bring further great advance on soul-winning endeavors, therefore

“WE RECOMMEND, That in the unions where the colored constituency is considered by the union conference committee to be sufficiently large, and where the financial income and leniency warrant, colored conferences be organized.”

 

THE “REGIONAL” DESIGNATION?

Until the organization of regional conferences in the United States, local conferences were assigned a state or two as their territory of responsibility. Regional conferences, because of their small membership size and the scattered locations of their congregations, were assigned a larger territory that covered several states or a region of the nation. Hence, the designation “regional conferences,” as compared to state conferences

 

REGIONAL CONFERENCES ARE…

Legitimate, fully recognized, participating organizations in the World Church of Seventh-day Adventists – more commonly referred to as “the General Conference” or “GC.”

We are different in leadership when compared to the state conferences but not separate or detached in mission, organization, accountability or structure. Regional conferences hold membership in the family of local conferences that comprise the union conferences in the North American Division (NAD).

Of the more than 1 million members in the NAD, membership exceeds 300,000 in the regional conferences and the predominantly Black congregations of the Pacific and North Pacific Unions

 

. . . CELEBRATING HISTORIC AND GROWING DIVERSITY

Regional conferences endorse the General Conference imperative of an open fellowship and are racially and nationally diverse. Although originally planned for Black people alone, many congregations within the regional conferences are predominantly Hispanic, Korean, Haitian, African and White. Lovingly, they all remain open and embracing to anyone the Lord sends to join them in their daily walk to the kingdom. Regional conferences consistently baptize 8,000 to 10,000 new members per year.

 

. . . AFFIRMING EMPLOYEES IN RETIREMENT

In 2000, the regional conferences chose to create a Defined Benefits Retirement Plan for all of its employees, rather than change to the Defined Contributions Plan suggested by the NAD. However, regional conferences assumed a significant portion of the financial liability accumulated by the NAD when forming their Plan.

Regional conferences contribute more than $1 million per year towards the remaining benefit liabilities in the NAD. They are the only local conferences operating a full service Retirement Plan for their employees, without NAD or GC oversight.

 

. . . SUPPORTING YOUTH PROGRAMS

Begun in 1971 and occurring every three to five years, regional conferences sponsor multi-conference Youth Congresses and the collaborative United Youth Congresses. In the spring of 2006, more than 50,000 young people and chaperones from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Caribbeans attended the four-day United Youth Congress, held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Churches within the regional conferences have created or expanded their youth programs to attract all age groups. Some of the additional programs focused on the youth and young adult members are:

  • Sabbath School-sponsored community Vacation Bible School
  • Puppet Ministry
  • Bible Bowl – local, state and national competitions
  • Choir concerts and music festivals
  • Pathfinders – local campmeetings and camporees
  • Youth Federations – quarterly and annually in all conferences
  • Summer Camps

 

THE FOLLOWING THREE INSERTS ARE COPIES OF DOCUMENTS REFLECTING THE ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE GENERAL CONFERENCE TO ENSURE RACIAL TOLERANCE AND FAIR REPRESENTATION IN ALL SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCHES AND ORGANIZATONS WITHIN THE UNITED STATES.

 

REGIONAL CONFERENCES AND HUMAN RELATIONS – 16 POINTS

16 POINTS: VOTED AT GENERAL CONFERENCE ANNUAL COUNCIL – APRIL 2, 1970

13 POINTS: (REVISED) AD HOC COMMITTEE – JULY 28, 1981

11 POINTS: (REVISED) PRE-COUNCIL OF UNION PRESIDENTS, NAD & GC OFFICERS – SEPTEMBER 28, 1981

  1. Seventh-day Adventist churches open their doors to any would-be worshipper or prospective member regardless of race or color and welcome such with brotherly love and concern. Where it is felt that this principle is violated it is the duty of the next higher organization to investigate and recommend effective measures to correct.
  2. The following additions to the baptismal vow and Church Manual are being recommended to the General Conference session: 6) All who enter the kingdom of heaven must have experienced conversion, or the new birth, through which man receives a new heart and becomes a new creature. Thus, regardless of ethnic or social background, he becomes a member of the ‘whole family in Heaven and earth.’” (Matt. 13:3; John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eze. 36:26, 27; Heb. 8:10-12; 1 Peter 1:23, 2:2; Eph. 3:15; Acts 17:26.) 13) Do you believe that the Seventh-day Adventist church is the remnant church of prophecy into which people of every nation, race and language are invited and accepted, and do you desire membership in its fellowship? At an appropriate time during this session a forthright statement should be made by the leadership of the Church dealing with and giving support to the position of the Church on race relations.
  3. Conferences selecting qualified spiritual leaders as pastors shall not be limited by race or color. Should some black pastors be appointed to white churches and some white pastors appointed to black churches, a very desirable example of church fellowship and understanding would result; therefore, programs to this end should be undertaken with the support and guidance of unions
  4. In order to make our public ministry more effective and to help members and potential members realize the importance of this brotherhood, conference administrators are urged to make clear to pastors and evangelists that it is their duty to teach these principles as a part of the gospel and our special message for the world. We further recommend that prospective members be so instructed either in the baptismal class or in personal Bible studies.
  5. Special emphasis should be given to human relations workshops to implement resolutions which unless carried out, are useless. These workshops should include all workers-field, educational and institutional, and leading laymen from both black and white conferences and churches. It is recommended that and /or conference-wide human relations workshops be conducted in every union in North America before the 1971 Autumn Council.
  6. Where normal entrance requirements are met, all Seventh-day Adventist schools from elementary to the university level shall admit Seventh-day Adventist youth to the school of their choice without regard to race or color. Where a church supported school fails to follow the counsel of the Church as stated to this point, it is the duty of the next higher organization to investigate and recommend corrective measures.
  7. A bi-racial commission of not more than 7 members shall be appointed in the North American Division to deal with complaints of discrimination or exclusion and other problems that arise in the area of race relations that may be appealed to it for help. This commission in cooperation and in counsel with the union conferences and/or local conference and/or the institution shall have authority to act immediately, making a thorough investigation and seeking solutions to these problems.
  8. On the union conference level positive steps should be taken to open doors in the area of administrative and departmental leadership for those who have demonstrated their ability and qualifications to serve all segments of the Church. In unions where there are Regional Conferences or where there is an organized Regional Department, the administrative officer level should include black leadership.
  9. Black personnel shall be selected to serve in our publishing houses, hospitals, academies, colleges, universities and other denominational institutions on the staff and/or administrative levels. Where it seems advisable institutions should institute training programs for the development of black personnel in technical and administrative skills.
  10. There is a missionary magazine dedicated to the black community in North America. The circulation of this journal is primarily the responsibility of the Regional churches. The Autumn Council of 1967 voted to help finance a black circulation manager for Message Magazine. We reaffirm that recommendation on the basis of the 1967 agreement on union participation and ask that this be implemented in the immediate future.
  11. At the time of the annual North American Union Conference Presidents’ meetings one or more black administrators on the union level will be invited to participate as well as representation from the Regional Department of the General Conference.
  12. In order to provide opportunity for the presidents of Regional Conferences (including the secretary of the Regional Department of the Pacific Union) to consult together regarding problems distinctive to their work, Autumn Councils will schedule two meetings of this group each year, under North American Division leadership, in conjunction with other regularly called meetings. When additional meetings are required such would be arranged by the North American Division administration.
  13. The next edition of the Ministers’ Manual should include as a part of the ministerial candidates examination before ordination questions regarding the candidate’s attitude toward human relations.
  14. We recommend that the General Conference lay plans to provide literature that would be useful in operating human relations workshops, setting forth standards, guidelines and procedures in this area.
  15. We recommend that the General Conference officers develop some plan whereby reports of progress in human relations may be publicized throughout the constituency in North America on local as well as general levels.
  16. We recommend the adoption in principle of the following plan of financial relationships involving Regional work.

 

AD HOC SIXTEEN POINTS REVISION COMMITTEE JULY 28, 1981

REGIONAL CONFERENCES AND HUMAN RELATIONS – 13 POINTS

After discussion, the following revisions of the Sixteen Points were recommended:

  1. Seventh-day Adventist Churches open their doors to any would-be worshipper or prospective member regardless of race or color and welcome such with brotherly love and concern. Where it is felt that this principle is violated it is the duty of the next higher organization to investigate and recommend effective measures to correct.
  2. Conferences selecting qualified spiritual leaders as pastors should not be limited to race or color. A very desirable example of Christian brotherhood would be exhibited if pastors of black and other ethnic groups would be appointed to white churches and white pastors would be appointed to churches of black and other ethnic groups; therefore programs to this end should be undertaken with the support and guidance of unions.
  3. In order to make our public ministry more effective and to help members and potential members realize the importance of this brotherhood, conference administrators are urged to make clear to pastors and evangelists that it is their duty to teach these principles as a part of the gospel and our special message for the world. We further recommend that prospective members be so instructed through personal Bible studies and in the baptismal class.
  4. Special emphasis should be given to human relations workshops to implement resolutions which, unless carried out are useless. These workshops should include black, white and other minority educational, field, and institutional workers and leading laymen from all churches and conferences. This should be done on a continuing basis.
  5. Where normal entrance requirements are met, all Seventh-day Adventist schools from elementary to the university level shall admit Seventh-day Adventist youth to the school of their choice without regard to race, color or ethnic background. Where church supported school fails to follow the counsel of the Church as stated on this point, it is the duty of the next higher organization to investigate and recommend corrective measures.
  6. A multi-racial commission shall be appointed in the North American Division to deal with complaints of discrimination or exclusion and other problems that arise in the area of racial, cultural and ethnic relations. This commission, in cooperation and in counsel with the union conferences and/or local conferences and/or the institution shall have authority to act immediately, making a thorough investigation and seeking solutions to these problems.
  7. On the union conference level positive steps should be taken to open doors in the area of administrative and departmental leadership for those who have demonstrated their ability and qualifications to serve all segments of the church. The union administrative and departmental staffs should reflect the racial or ethnic composition of the union constituency. In unions where there are regional conferences or where there is a regional department, the administrative officer level should include black leadership. This principle should apply to other ethnic groups that have large constituencies.
  8. Black and other minority personnel shall be selected to serve in our publishing houses, hospitals, academies, colleges, universities and other departmental institutions on the staff and/or administrative levels. Where is seems advisable, institutions should institute training programs for the development of black personnel and other minority personnel in technical and administrative skills.
  9. There is a missionary magazine dedicated to the black community in North America. The circulation of this journal is primarily the responsibility of the Regional churches. This principle should apply to other ethnic missionary journals.
  10. At the time of the annual North American Union Conference Presidents’ Councils, one or more Black, as well as Hispanic leaders on the General Conference or union level should be invited to participate.
  11. In order to provide opportunity for the presidents of Regional Conferences (including the secretary of the Regional Department of the Pacific Union and North Pacific Union) to consult together regarding problems distinctive to their work, Autumn Councils will schedule two meetings of this group each year, under North American Division leadership, in conjunction with other regularly called meetings. When additional meetings are required such would be arranged by the North American Division administration. A similar arrangement should be developed for the Spanish Advisory.
  12. We recommend that the General Conference lay plans to provide literature that would be useful in operating human relations workshops, setting forth standards, guidelines, and procedures in this area.
  13. We recommend that the General Conference Officers develop some plan whereby reports of progress in human relations may be publicized throughout the constituency in North America on local as well as general levels.

REGIONAL CONFERENCES AND HUMAN RELATIONS – 11 POINTS

(Revised) Voted by the North American Division Annual Council October 6-14, 1981-Regional Conferences and Human Relations – Cross Cultural administrative Guidelines.

VOTED, To adopt human relations and cross-cultural administrative guidelines as follows:

  1. Seventh-day Adventist churches to welcome to any would-be worshipper or prospective member with brotherly love and concern regardless of race or color. Where is felt that this principle is violated it is the duty of the next higher organization to investigate and recommend corrective measures.
  2. Conferences considering qualified spiritual leaders as pastors are to select the best qualified individuals and not limit themselves to candidates of a particular race or color. A very desirable example of Christian brotherhood is exhibited when pastors of Black and other ethnic groups are appointed to Caucasian churches and Caucasian pastors are appointed to churches of Black and other ethnic groups. The Union Conferences are to give support and guidance to programs to achieve the above conditions.
  3. In order to make public ministry more effective and to help members and potential members realize the importance of this brotherhood, conference administrators are urged to make clear to pastors and evangelists that it is their duty to teach these principles as a part of the gospel and the special Adventist message for the world. Prospective members are to be so instructed through personal Bible studies and in the baptismal class.
  4. Special emphasis is to be given to the conducting of human relations workshops that are to implement these guidelines which, unless carried out, are useless. These workshops are to include Blacks, Caucasians and various minorities, and are to consist of workers from the educational, ministerial, and institutional fields and leading laymen from all churches conferences. This is to be done on a continuing basis.
  5. Where normal entrance requirements are met, all Seventh-day Adventist schools from elementary to the university level shall admit Seventh-day Adventist youth to the school of their choice without regard to race, color or ethnic background. Where church-supported school fails to follow the counsel of the Church as stated on this point, it is the duty of the next higher organization to investigate and recommend corrective measures.
  6. On the union conference level, positive steps are to be taken to open the doors in the area of administrative and departmental leadership for those who have demonstrated their ability and qualifications to serve all segments of the Church. The union administrative and departmental staffs are to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the union constituency. In unions where there are regional conferences or where there is a regional department, the administrative officer level should include black leadership. This principle should apply to other ethnic groups that have large constituencies.
  7. Black and other minority personnel are to be selected to serve on the staff and administrative levels of Adventist publishing houses, hospitals, academies, colleges, universities and other institutions. Where there is a regional department, the administrative officer level should include black leadership. This principle is to apply also to other ethnic groups that have large constituencies.
  8. At the time of the North American Union Conference Presidents’ meetings, one or more Black, as well as Hispanic leaders, on the General Conference or union levels are to be invited to participate.
  9. In order to provide opportunity for the presidents of Regional Conferences (including Secretary of the Regional Departments of the Pacific Union and North Pacific Union) to consult together regarding problems distinctive to their work, Autumn Council is to schedule two meetings of this group each year, under North American Division leadership, in conjunction with other regularly called meetings. When additional meetings are required such are to be arranged by the North American Division administration. A similar arrangement should be developed for Asian and Spanish Advisories.
  10. The General Conference is to lay plans to provide literature that would be useful in operating human relations workshops and setting forth standards, guidelines and procedures in this area.
  11. The General Conference Officers are to develop plans whereby reports of progress in human relations may be publicized to the constituency in North America on local as well as general levels.

Throughout the world, the work of the Lord in the Seventh-day Adventist Church has grown significantly when leadership was put into the hands of the indigenous people. Putting leadership of the work for Black people in the United States under the direction of Regional Conferences sixty-three years ago has borne rich fruit. Since that time the membership has increased from 17,000 and is approaching the 330,000 mark.

These blessings have come as the respective Union Conferences and the North American Division leadership of the General Conference made accommodations for the successful growth and development of Regional Conferences. We praise God for the success we have enjoyed for it has only been by His might and power that these things have come to pass. Today we remain spiritually and organizationally joined together in unity with all entities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And together all of us remain determined that as one mighty army under God and with the power of the Holy Ghost, “this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come.”

 

FORMATION OF REGIONAL CONFERENCES IS CONSISTENT WITH BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE:

“Now there are diversities of gifts (gifts of grace produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit), but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations (service to the Christian community such as serving tables-deacons), but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations (‘working” – The Greek word indicates power in operation that produces obvious results), but it is the same God who worketh all in all.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

SPECIAL MINISTRIES AND INSITUTIONS SUPPORTED BY REGIONAL CONFERENCES…

In addition to the support of all other ministries expected of local conferences within the World Church of Seventh-day Adventists:

  • BAYDA (Black Adventist Youth Director Association)
  • Breath of Life TV Ministry
  • Regional Conference Laymen’s Congresses
  • United Youth Congresses
  • Bradford Cleveland Brooks Leadership Center
  • Oakwood University
  • Pine Forge Academy
  • Regional Voice Magazine
  • Message Magazine
  • Family Health Education Services (Publishing)
  • Pastoral Evangelism & Leadership Council annual meetings
  • Regional Conference Defined Benefits Retirement Plan
The Office Of Regional Conference Ministry is responsible for working with the Regional Conference Presidents and other Regional Conference Officers for developing and implementing the agenda for Regional Conferences. The office in Huntsville is the headquarters for the Regional Conference Ministry. It supports/subsidizes ministries such as Breath of Life, Message Magazine, BAYDA, PELC, United Youth Congress, the Bradford/Cleveland/Brooks Leadership Center and National Bible Bowl. It publishes the Regional Voice Magazine.