BUC Ministers, Bible Workers and Departmental Leaders Attend TED's European Pastors' Council (EPC)
7th September 2018
Every five years ministers across the Trans-European Division (TED) assemble together for five days of spiritual meetings, workshops, plenary sessions and networking. It's a time for ministers who are normally on the giving end of ministry to be spiritual recharged and catered for, to be on the receiving end of well-planned and organised programmes.
This quinquennium was no exception for the excellent array of speakers and presenters. Coordinated and planned by the TED, in particular the Ministerial department, under the leadership of Pastor Patrick Johnson The five days reflected the unity and cohesive teamwork of all the TED departmental directors working together on this pastoral council under the theme 'Connect, Inspire, Change'.
This year the venue was the Sava Centre, in Belgrade, Serbia and was held from Tuesday 28 August to Saturday 1 September. With over 1,200 ministers, departmental leaders, Bible workers and administrators together with spouses of many in attendance, the atmosphere for the opening meeting provided a sense of excitement and anticipation for the following days to come.
Pastor Đorđija Trajkovski, President of the South-East European Union (SEEU), together with his wife translating, gave greetings and welcome to all in attendance. The Serbian deputy speaker of the parliament, Mr Vladimir Marinković was introduced and also shared greetings. Then in Serbian style, attendees were treated to traditional Serbian mix of folk music and dances by a group dressed in their national costumes.
The opening message was given by General Conference President Pastor Ted Wilson, who spoke on the topic 'I have a Dream…of a Biblical Church', who by using the key points of the EPC theme, 'Connect, Inspire, Change', challenged ministers to take on God's own dream for Europe and for the Trans-European Division in particular.
Tuesday being the first full day, provided an assortment of programmes and activities. Morning worship was taken by Dr Daniel Duda, Education Director and Field Secretary of the TED. He spoke about 'the most dramatic conversion story in the Bible' and basing his remarks on Acts 9:10-15, speaks about Paul who is suddenly made aware 'that religion is primarily about connection' ‒ and that the person chosen by God to help him understand that vital lesson is Ananias, who appears briefly in the Bible narrative at God's instruction.
The Connect Talks took place in the mornings and were designed to provide stimulating input on how to connect with others, both inside and beyond the Church. Each presentation was followed up by a brief open discussion.
One of the Tuesday speakers was Pastor Anthony Fuller, South England Conference (SEC) Youth director, who expressed his concern at the alarming rate that youth are leaving the Church, especially the millennials. According to Pastor Anthony, church life and worship was never meant to consist of a single event, with all our activities packed into the Sabbath. Instead, he makes the point that church is a lifestyle experience that ought to result in continual connection throughout the week so that church becomes a true fellowship experience.
With over 40 topics on offer, the afternoon workshops provided lots to choose from. Some of the workshops led by those within the British Union Conference (BUC) and others included:
Samuel Ngui - Trouble Makers: Dealing with difficult people and antagonists in the church.
Leslie Ackie - Emotionally Intelligent Leadership.
Reinder Bruinsma - A Critical Look At Last Generational Theology.
Janet Page - Saving Our Families.
Bjørn Ottesen - Why Millennials Leave the Church ‒ and How the Church Might Respond.
Jeffrey Brown - The Four Seasons of Leadership.
Adriana Fodor - What motivates the unchurched to join the church in a postmodern culture?
Jovan Adamović - How Can Your Church Be Effectively Involved in Community Work?
Radiša Antić - Hebrews 6:19-20 & The Last Great Theological Storm in Adventism.
Dragan Grujičić - Adventism For a Secular Age.
Elliott Williams - Ellen G White, Homosexuality, Gender Identity and Adventists.
Adam Ramdin - Generation Z: The New Youth and Reaching them for Christ.
Kim Papaioannou - Heavenly Sanctuary Theology in Ancient Israel.
Sophia Nicholls - Making Connections, Creating Belonging, Inspiring Change.
Anthony Fuller - Millennials: Reaching and Empowering the Most Disengaged Generation.
Kirk Thomas - Cyclical Evangelism – Mission, Motivation & Practice.
Dejan Stanjević - Religion and Violence.
Victor Marshall - Diagnosing and Addressing the Emotional State of Your Congregation.
Jan Barna - The Gospel of Three Angels and the Illusion of Modern Technology.
Geoff Smith - Harnessing Social Media in Authentic Ministry.
Further details of all workshops and the handouts used can be seen here.
Pastor Ian Sweeney, BUC President, was Wednesday evening's main speaker. He based his message on the trilogy of 'lostness' in the parables found in Luke 15. Focusing on the lost coin, Sweeney challenged listeners on how we deal with those who have left the Church. One striking comment he made was "when a member is missing from church for 6 weeks, we show our carelessness when we say 'Hello stranger!', when not having once picked up the phone to find out how they are! Then we make it worse by telling this lie, 'I missed you!' They know that had we really missed them we would have called."
Other highlights of the week included SEC's Pastor Des Boldeau's personal testimony of his 20-year battle with debilitating psoriasis. The hushed audience listened sympathetically to his frank and moving account of physical and mental suffering, but applauded his conclusion, "When you can't trace God's hand, trust His heart."
Pastor Gifford Rhamie (Lecturer and Director of Field Education at Newbold College of Higher Education) spoke on the well-known story of the woman caught in adultery in the early morning devotional taken from John 8:3-11 on Thursday's theme of 'Inspire'. Rhamie brought out deep insights often overlooked in this account portrayed through the eyes of a 21st century person. In Christ's uncondemning word of 'go' to the woman, Rhamie expressed how this was a blessing pronounced by the Rabbi to go in peace. Go into the future in peace. The peace or shalom means that you are no longer constrained by your past.
Despite the number of meetings, there was ample time for networking, relaxation and personal reflection for those who attended. Many ministers in particular, saw this as an opportune time to renew acquaintances with colleagues from Newbold student days, as well as make new friends in ministry.
Many appreciated the message of Dr Jeffrey Brown (GC Associate Ministerial director) on the Friday evening who challenged the thinking about how we portray ourselves as a church in the community. Rather than being a church that is seen as condemning social acts we should become a church of influence. Using Babylon as a metaphor, for the world or our secular surroundings, rather than a prophetic sense, his message was a call and admonition to stay in Babylon to be the salt and light that could save people. He was on good authority, and he made sure that no one had any cause to misunderstand his intentions: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15).
The Sabbath School led by Pastor David Neal, TED Stewardship director, provided a dialogue and three presentations on the profile and journey of the apostle Paul.
Elizabeth Talbot, Speaker/Director for the Jesus 101 Biblical Institute, a media ministry of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, gave the sermon for divine service. Focusing on Mark 6-8, Talbot explored the account of the loaves and the fishes and challenged the listening Church leaders to feed the spiritually hungry people of Europe with the broken body of Jesus ‒ holding out Jesus to people who may be questioning, "is there enough for me?" Elizabeth Talbot's sermon can be found here.
During the closing procedures, TED President Pastor Raafat Kamal was able to share the vision and strategic plan for the division, highlighting the importance of collaboration and unity.
Overall it was a well-organised and planned council, which met with the appreciation of ministers as reflected in the video below:
The council is now over but the spirit lives on in a series of recordings on our YouTube channel, reports on our websites, downloadable resources from workshops and some pictures galleries on the TED Facebook page.
Enjoy the specially-commissioned video clips produced on location at EPC: Permission to Dream.
Read further reports from EPC18 on the TED News page.
Photos accredited to Tor Tjeransen and Lungani Sibanda.