A New Building and a Renewed Hope: Day 1 at the NAD Meetings

The Year-End Meetings of the North American Division (NAD) started with the grand opening ceremony for the much anticipated NAD headquarters, an event filled with much energy and laughter.

The Allegheny East Pathfinders Drum Corps opened the proceedings with a rousing performance. Then John Wobensmith, the Secretary of State of Maryland, presented NAD President Dan Jackson with a Maryland State flag that had flown over the State capitol building in Annapolis.

After the raising of the flags and a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, it was time to cut the royal blue ribbon, which coordinated well with the blue glass and tile building. Past and present NAD officials took part in the ribbon cutting.

The new North American Division headquarters in Columbia, Maryland. Photo credit: Pieter Damsteegt/NAD

With the ribbon successfully cut, the crowd headed inside. Most were directed to the main auditorium (which seats 600), but an overflow room had also been set up to accommodate the estimated 700-person audience. The stragglers found themselves here, and one such individual jovially dubbed it the “loser room.” Though, with a wall-to-wall projector screen, we probably had a better view than some in the main room.

It took a few minutes before we had sound, however. In the meantime, several individuals tuned into the Facebook livestream on their phones and cranked the volume up to max so the rest of us could just make out a tinny stream of music to match the processional onscreen. Despite the technological trouble, everyone’s high spirits remained.

The sound came on in our room shortly after Dan Jackson took the stage in the main auditorium. He welcomed the guests and then Dave Weigley, president of the Columbia Union Conference, delivered an energetic address about his appreciation that the NAD had chosen the CUC for its new headquarters.

The highlight of the event was the “Historical Perspective” section. It was in 1913 that the “North American Division Conference” was formed, and it was in that same year that discussion first began on where the NAD headquarters should be. 104 years later and we finally have the answer: Columbia, Maryland.

President Jackson, Executive Secretary G. Alexander Bryant, and Treasurer G. Thomas Evans all paid tribute to those who had gone before in their respective positions. Dan Jackson was joined on stage by the first NAD president, Charles E. Bradford, and his wife Ethel. Bradford served as president from 1979 to 1990.

“Thank you so much for the ministry, the courage, the vision, that you utilized in bringing into being the North American Division. God bless you, God bless you,” Jackson told Bradford.

Jackson then asked if Bradford had any remarks for the audience. “Well, I didn’t see my name on the program,” Bradford replied, laughing. He continued, saying that the one question he’s gotten over and over again through the years has been, “where is the North American Division?”

“Well, thank God, I am able to say today, the North American Division is here! You can see it, you can feel it, you can hear it, and thank God you can be proud of it!” said Bradford, as the audience broke out in cheers and applause.

Next, Jackson was joined on stage by Scott McClure, son of Alfred C. McClure who served as NAD president from 1990 to 2000, and passed away in 2006. Don Schneider, NAD president from 2000 to 2010, was next to join Jackson at the podium where Jackson shared that he is often mistaken for Schneider when he visits churches.

G. Alexander Bryant followed and gave remarks on the three previous executive secretaries: Bob Dale (1979 to 1990), Harold W. Baptiste (1990 to 2002), and Roscoe Howard (2002 to 2008). All three are in poor health and so could not be at the ceremony.

Though Bryant never worked with Dale, he said he has heard many stories about his time with the NAD and described him as the quintessential secretary who carried books of meeting minutes around and could find exactly what was voted and when on any topic in question.

Baptiste is the longest serving secretary for the NAD (1990 to 2002). “We see many traces of his footprints in our office,” said Bryant.

When it came time to discuss Roscoe Howard’s legacy, Bryant was overcome with emotion and had to pause while the audience murmured reassurances. “Roscoe and I are brother-in-laws,” Bryant shared. “We married two sisters….He is having some health challenges today, and I just thought it would be good if the North American Division said a special prayer for him today.” Bryant invited Elder Kibble to the stage to lead the audience in prayer for all three former secretaries.

After prayer, Bryant concluded saying that he wanted the former secretaries to know that “whatever we have today, we have it because we stand on their shoulders.”

Next, NAD Treasurer G. Thomas Evans paid tribute to former treasurers George H. Crumley (1990 to 1998) and Juan Prestol-Puesan (1998 to 2007) who were both present at the ceremony.

During his dedicatory remarks, Dan Jackson shared the story of finding a document concerning a 70 year strategic plan written by Bob Dale in the president’s desk (which has been used by all former NAD presidents). After looking through it, as well as a book written by Bradford, he realized that his current administration was addressing all the same concerns the previous administrations had.

“It is no wonder that it took us 104 years to build a building, because we keep talking about the same stuff,” Jackson quipped.

To close out the ceremony, Wintley Phipps sang Amazing Grace, and then the NAD officials led the audience in an “Opening Litany” comprised of words from Solomon, David, Isaiah, Paul, Moses, Jesus, John, and Habakkuk.

Afterward, the audience was dismissed to tour the building. The 125,000 sq. ft. space was originally built by Arbitron Inc., the radio ratings organization. The NAD paid $19.5 million for it and spent an additional $11 million in renovations. The total cost was paid for with reserve funds. Each division is required under GC policy to keep an amount equal to 100% of its yearly operating budget in reserve. It was this money the NAD dipped into to pay for the building, bringing its reserves down to 93% of its operating budget; an amount officials say they are confident they will bring back up to 100% soon.

Though the initial expense is sizeable, the NAD is on track to save money down the road, a strategy made possible both by paying for the building outright and by no longer paying $1.2 million in annual rent to the GC for space a fraction of the size of the new facility.

It’s clear much thought was put into the building, and the effort to showcase the unique aspects of the NAD is evident. The building is full of natural light from a glass-paneled roof that sends cascades of prismatic rainbows into the Charles E. Bradford Conference Center. Throughout the building are 10 conference rooms, named after the nine North American Unions and the Guam-Micronesia Mission.

An Adventist health message wall, donated by the Adventist healthcare networks, provides an interactive exploration of the Adventist dedication to health and wellness throughout history. On the wall across from the health message is a dedicated space for student art. Paintings by recent PUC grad Casey Speegle are up right now. Artwork by Nathan Greene can be found throughout the rest of the building. Wooden paneling, hand-carved by a local Adventist artisan, adds warmth and offsets the otherwise glass and metal structure.

The interactive Adventist health message wall.

A wall dedicated to student art currently features work by Casey Speegle.

I was most captivated by the C.D. Brooks Prayer Chapel where the focal point is a glass mosaic created by Monte Church. Nine lambs appear in the mosaic, representing the nine unions. Fragments of glass shaped like each state and province in the NAD are scattered throughout and a series of dots and dashes along the bottom represent a prayer for help to the Lord in Morse Code.

The stained glass mosaic in the C.D. Brooks Prayer Chapel.

After a break for lunch, the first business session began with the President’s Report. Dan Jackson gave a rousing and joke-filled speech that elicited many “amens” and much laughter from the audience.

He began by telling the delegates that the chairs they were sitting in were the same chairs used at GC Session 2015. “I think the brethren sold them to us in the hope that their influence would rub off and that we would always be in harmony with the General Conference. It’s another approach at unity!” Jackson told the chuckling audience.

On a more serious note, he added that he wanted every delegate present to feel comfortable speaking their minds throughout the sessions, whether that means agreeing or disagreeing with something someone else has said, as long as it’s done with respect and love.

"This is a family. A healthy organization will have healthy discussion, and that includes disagreement,” said Jackson.

“I tell my wife that if we always agree, then one of us is redundant,” he added.

“Does she agree with that?” shouted someone from the audience, eliciting laughs all around.

Jackson spent time reiterating the NAD’s strong commitment to mission and to unity, stating that the NAD “has absolutely no plan to agitate or promote separation...we are part of the world church and will remain so." He reminded the audience that everyone in the room is a believer - a “lifer.” “We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t.”

He discussed the Church’s strengths:

Great GodGreat human resourcesExcellent facilitiesActive laityAble youthGenerous constituencies

The NAD’s outreach initiatives, which include a $14.7 million budget investment, thousands of campaigns, and evangelism efforts that have resulted in hundreds of baptisms.

Next, he discussed the proposed 2020 Strategic Initiatives which include a renewed dedication to communication, youth, and ongoing leadership training.

And finally, Jackson wrapped up with the Missional Initiatives:

Transformational EvangelismYoung Adult LifeWomen in Pastoral Ministry Emerging Immigrant Populations Stewardship Social Media

These topics give a precursor for what to expect throughout the rest of the meetings, which go through end-of-day Tuesday, October 31.

After nearly two hours, Jackson apologized for going on for so long, but added quickly that he wasn’t really sorry - the information he had shared was important and vital to the mission of the Church.

When Executive Secretary Bryant called for a vote on the President’s Report it was heartily and unanimously approved by the body.

Since it was already after 5:00 p.m., the Secretary’s Report, which had been on the agenda for the day’s discussion, was bumped to the following morning.

I left the meetings feeling energized and optimistic for what is to come in the following days. It’s hard not to be optimistic when the mood in the room, led by Dan Jackson’s cheerful and corny quips, is as light and cheerful as the building we’re in.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

All photos by Alisa Williams except where otherwise specified.

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8344

Alisa, thank you for your evocative descriptions.

An apt and promising beginning. This week I toured the facility and found the new occupants almost giddy with hope and liberated joy. The building and location seem ideal. Now comes the hard part of employing brains, heart, and backbone to imbue to the people of its territory more hope and liberated joy.

Dan Jackson’s words encourage. Charles Bradford always cheers. Jesus of Nazareth both assures and challenges. Tough times are ahead. Based on God’s love, we can go forward with integrity, humility, and defiant optimism.

PS: dvd85 writes below, “what a WASTE of MILLIONS of dollars of God’s money when they already had a building.” Um, did you somehow miss the $1.2 million savings each year with this arrangement? Did you miss the wakening autonomy and efficacy and freedom in the air?

3 Likes

To ALL–
[In RESPONSE to any who may question the colored glass mural]
Regarding the Stained Glass Window.
PERHAPS the FEEL and TEXTURE of the work [and LOTS OF IT by the creator] came NOT from the Gospel, but from George Frederick Handel, from his Aria Duet in the oratorio, THE MESSIAH.
"HE Shall Feed His Flock, like a shepherd"
Which is an Old Testament picture of God – God, Christ, Holy Spirit.
The SHEPHERD is the SERVANT of the Sheep. God [the 3 in one] are SERVANT GODS. Ministering
to us pitiful, sinful, helpless humans.
I LIKE the MESSAGE of the mural in colored glass.

THANK YOU – Monte Church.

PS-- Perhaps it might have WORKED BETTER if Monte had put Christ in the Shepherd’s WORK OUTFIT instead of “Sabbath go-to-church” robes which do not function well for digging up poison weeds, wading in the rushing waters to dig around the edge and create a still pool of water for the sheep to drink from.
Perhaps a “hat” to keep the sun from beating down on His head so relentlessly.

Someone should be fired for this…what a WASTE of MILLIONS of dollars of God’s money when they already had a building. Only the most cold hearted could disagree… all that cash could have been spent on spreading the Gospel, 3 Angel’s Message, Investigative Judgment, The Science of Salvation, etc…but NO…Mr. Jackson wants his own fiefdom for playing the part of Korah on this space fabric of time…

Really (?) 1) the north american division NEEDED a location where they were not the cinderella of the gc, While the ROI is a bit long, it will allow the laiety in north america to feel they have a distinct headquarters not just a couple of offices in an otherwise labyrinth run by the Adventist version of the United Nations. By the way, dvd85, i specifically remember another individual saying something like that, Oh yes, his name was Judas Iscariot.

I am chagrined. How disconcerting from a simple beginning we have moved into a 31 million dollar edifice. All under the rationale we are saving money, when the rent was returned or recycled back to the church. Even naming rooms after ourselves, to our past and present great leaders.

Have we forgotten? I think so. The many warnings by Jesus about the inherent damage of wealth, love of position, public approval and status. The very things that Jesus and his forerunner, John the Baptist, rejected.

Its time to remove “advent” from our name–we are publicly displaying to the world that we don’t expect Jesus to return anytime soon (sing it all we like).

As we praise and embrace our “glass edifice” and our great accomplishments–it drains spiritual power. Wealth and spiritual energy with attendant revival are seldom companions. This is a fact, it always does. What changed the humble early church into the colossal Catholic church? Wealth, privileged clergy, love of power and the trust of their base of tithe payers. Sadly today we believe that wealth and privilege are signs of God’s presence and blessings.

Jesus taught the only way to safeguard spiritual truth was, NOT by keeping the Sabbath, but the rejection of living in wealth and its status: _“It is hard for those how have wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven…easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle. No one can serve two masters…both God and money…Store not up treasure on this earth…where your money is your heart is also…Blessed are you who are poor, woe to you who are rich…If you would be perfect, sell what your possessions and give them to the poor.” etc etc etc.

…while there sits an empty building in Hagerstown, Maryland, eroding away in the middle of a field - haunted by the hum of printing presses, now dead. And yet, there still glows in that dark field, the ghost of what once announced the Review and Herald Publishing Association., just a hop, skip and a jump (as the crow flies) from this spanking new building. RIP

It probably would have cost more to remodel, having been built in 1907 and not used since 1989. There was probably a reason they vacated it in the first place.

So the GC voted to use $30 000 00 that people believed was to further God’s to build themselves a monument.
It’s seems that just last year we were told how giving was down and we should be giving more. This is like a government voting to give themselves a raise. This monument so they can dream and come up with better ways to promote God should be called Vatican 2. A much simpler building could have worked for much less.
When you add this to what happened with the TOSC report (it was not presented in its entirety and cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars), it seems like the highest levels within the GC are mismanaging money.
It is time for change.

3 Likes

I just got the new ADVENTIST JOURNEY (special issue: year end) magazine, printed by the NAD. On page 5 there is an article titled, NAD DEDICATES NEW HEADQUARTERS.
At a certain point this called my attention,

“Three video presentations were viewed, including a greeting and prayer from Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conferencie (Adventists world church) president;”

There is no further mention of him. Does it mean that he did no attend that ceremony??? Does anybody here know anything about it?
@elmer_cupino @harrpa @timteichman @vandieman @JohnCarson

=-=-=-=-=-=-==-=-=-

Stacey, the real cost of that fake TOSC was not $200K but rather over $1 MILLION. A total waste by the GC, and it ended up being nothing but a political fiasco led by Ted Wilson.

3 Likes

@GeorgeTichy, no, Ted Wilson was not in attendance at the grand opening ceremony. He was traveling outside the country at the time.

1 Like