At the 2019 Year End Meetings of the North American Division (NAD), Elder Michael A. Harpe was voted as the Stewardship Director for the NAD. He replaces Elder Bonita Shields who moved to the position of Vice President for the NAD.
Elder Harpe formerly served as the Stewardship Director for the South Central Conference, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he became a Seventh-day Adventist in 1971 after a tent crusade held by Elder Charles Drake, III. Over one hundred individuals were baptized in that meeting, including Elder Harpe and his mother.
Elder Harpe attended Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), where he graduated in 1991 with degrees in both Theology and Mathematics. Later on, in 2005, he obtained a Master of Arts Degree in Homiletics and Church Growth from Southern Adventist University. During his his time as a student at Oakwood, he served the Oakwood College Church as a student Pastor and then as the Assistant to the Pastor, the late and iconic Elder E.C. Ward.
Upon graduation, he was hired by the South Central Conference in the area of education. He taught Bible (primarily-but also World History and Algebra for a time) at Oakwood Academy for 4 years.
He transferred from the teaching ministry to Pastoral ministry in 1991, when South Central asked him to serve as the Assistant Pastor of the Oakwood College Church. That was followed by pastorates in the Laurel/Soso, Mississippi district and the Birmingham South Park SDA Church.
At the 2006 South Central Conference Session, the constituency asked Elder Harpe to serve as the Director of Communications and Adventist Laymen’s Service and Industries (ASI). A few months later, the then President of South Central, Elder Benjamin P. Browne, asked Elder Harpe to assume the leadership of the Stewardship and Trust Department “for a time”. That time ended up being for most of the next 14 years.
Elder Harpe’s passion in Stewardship was for that ministry to be seen as something more than just a dialog on why church members need to return a faithful tithe and a liberal offering. His approach was a holistic one, based on what he called the “Four T’s -Time, Temple, Talent and Treasure”. Later, 3 additional “T’s”became a part of this holistic approach-“Trust”, “Theology” and “Testimony”-the latter meaning that after God had blessed one as a faithful steward, there was a testimony that needed to be shared with others.
Over the years, Elder Harpe developed a Stewardship team that included the first Assistant Stewardship Director in South Central, Elder James Lewis, who previously served first as the Treasurer of the Allegheny West and later as its President. They crisscrossed the territory of South Central, instituting things such as Generosity Days, Stewardship Certification classes and Personal Finance Seminars.
On December 1, Elder Harpe transfers his God-given passion for Stewardship ministry from the conference level to the 1.25 million members of the North American Division-the largest division in tithe in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There he desires to build on the things left by his predecessor and add things such as a Pastors Stewardship Resource Packet. He wishes also to emphasize the importance of local church giving; there is a natural emphasis on tithe but the Bible mandates and the church depends on faithfulness in offering as well. He has a burden to ensure that the church understands that the dialog on faithful stewardship is still relevant today.
He will be accompanied in this next phase of his ministerial journey by his wife of 36 years, the former Selita Atchley, of Charleston, West Virginia. Also a graduate of Oakwood University, she is currently employed there as a Research and Grants Specialist.