R. Steven Norman III
R. Steven Norman III
More than 200 delegates attended the 20th Quinquennial Session of the Southern Union Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 18, 2022.
In the opening report, Ron C. Smith, D.Min., Ph.D., Southern Union president, emphasized to the 235 delegates their mission: “Sharing Our Faith and Sharing Christ with the World.” Smith, who was re-elected president of the Southern Union, and other Union leaders lauded the delegates for their faithfulness over the years, particularly during the pandemic. They elaborated on their appreciation in the special Quinquennial Report Southern Tidings released in September.
“Over the last quinquennial period, our faithful members of the Southern Union, through responsible Christian ministry, have not only ministered to our local churches, but to this post-modern and post-Christian culture,” said Smith. “I am so encouraged and inspired by our brothers and sisters of this vast Union. I write this report to thank each of you for your faithfulness. What powerful witnesses you have been and continue to be. Within this quinquennium, we have endured a worldwide pandemic. COVID-19 wreaked havoc on our world, nation, churches, and individual families. But it is amazing how the metrics surrounding the success of ministry through the Southern Union continue to climb onward and upward.”
Among the highlights of the session was the re-election of Smith and the three other officers: Jim Davidson, executive secretary; David Freedman, treasurer; and Dave Colburn, undertreasurer.
In his report, Davidson noted that despite the pandemic, at the end of the December 2020 period, 42,191 members were added to the Southern Union through baptism or profession of faith, 36,285 joined churches throughout the Union by transfer, while 30,219 transferred out.
“At the beginning of 2016, Southern Union membership stood at 286,686,” said Davidson. “At the end of the quinquennium in December 2020, Southern Union membership had grown to 308,337. This is an increase of 21,651 members. We give God all the praise and glory for what He has done to increase His flock in the Southern Union.”
He added that since the last session, there are 52 more churches and 29 more companies than there were five years ago, for a total of 1,166 churches and 219 companies throughout the Southern Union territory.
“In addition to this, there are numerous groups and other church plants that have not yet reached company or church status,” said Davidson. “Virtually wherever you travel throughout our eight states, you will find an Adventist church nearby.”
Freedman said his report can be summed up in three words: blessed, grateful, and mission-focused. Members remained focused on giving amid the pandemic.
“Tithe from the eight conferences is our main source of income,” said Freedman. “During the last quinquennium, the Southern Union showed consistent gains in tithe. Our eight conferences ended the year 2020 with more than $258 million in gross tithe income. Due to God’s continued blessings and our members’ continued faithfulness, ministry has flourished and many have had an opportunity to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. This faithfulness has and will continue to have eternal results for many people in our communities.”
During the session, Smith made his appreciation to the attending delegates tangible. He invited R. Steven Norman III, Southern Union communication director and Southern Tidings editor, to present each of them with a pictorial journal called REFLECTIONS, which showcases God’s hand in the 120-year (1901-2021) history of the Southern Union.
“We value and appreciate each of you as delegates for this 20th session, and to demonstrate our appreciation tangibly, we are going to present you a gift,” said Norman.
At the end of his report, Smith laid out the mission for the next quinquennium, which includes more baptisms, planting new churches, revitalization, and strengthening families. But, most of all, he said to remain hopeful.
“In the presence of the pandemic, many have managed to survive varied hardships surrounding their faith journeys,” he said. “Hope has prompted many to look beyond the dying and the suffering to the life we will one day have. Hope says the tree of life still grows. It waits for you in the paradise of God. We are admonished to get up. Go on. Tough it out. We have a reward waiting for us that will make today’s misery seem little more than a bad dream.”
Southern Union | November 2022