Becoming European: The Trans-European Division at 90

There are three essentials for a good party: guests, a cake and a good speech. Leaders of the Trans-European Division found they had all three aplenty when they gathered for a ninety-year celebration on Saturday afternoon, 18 May.

Audrey Andersson, Exec. Secretary; Raafat Kamal, President; & Nenad Jepuranovic, Treasurer.

Dr. David Trim, historian and director of Archives at Seventh-day Adventist World Church headquarters returned to his alma mater, Newbold College of Higher Education, to present a lecture with the intriguing title, ‘Becoming European: The Trans-European Division after 90 years’.

To understand the title, you need to understand the history.

European Division meeting 1928

In August 1928 European Adventist leaders, together with leaders of the World Church met at Marienhoehe Seminary near Darmstadt, Germany to map out a future for Europe. At the time there was just one European Division. However, Europe had a vision for mission and, quite apart from evangelism within its own territories, was sending out missionaries to large swathes of Africa, Asia and beyond. There was a strong consciousness that, to improve mission, this single Division needed to divide.

Northern European Division (NED) territory in Europe 1929

The result? On 31 December 1928 the European Division ceased to exist, replaced on New Year’s day by the Southern European Division, the Central European Division and the Northern European Division (NED). In the ninety years since then, the NED has gone through several name changes, various territory changes, and a change in focus. It has also lived through the great depression, WWII, the cold war, the move from colonialism to independence in its traditional mission territories, and with it a strong and vibrant growth in National leadership in those same territories.

Yet with all that, mission has always been at the core. During the very first winter council following the formation of the Division leaders stated, “We pledge ourselves under God to make every effort to carry the Advent Message to the many millions in the countries of the Northern European Division, including its large mission fields.”

British Missionaries 1907-1927

Those mission territories for the NED were mainly in West Africa where, over the years, European Adventists supported in excess of one thousand missionaries. The church there grew strong while, in more recent years the European ‘mother-church’ faced the new issues of growing secularism and materialism. Growth rates at home slowed except for those countries, like the British Isles, that saw significant immigration.

What is clear is that European Adventism, and particularly Scandinavian and British Adventism, historically had a significant impact on church growth in large swathes of the world. Today the focus has changed. Territorial realignments mean that what is now known as the Trans-European Division no longer has a mission territory outside of itself. Today the focus is on building mission in Europe.

To illustrate this Trim noted that ‘Europe’ has always been in the title but that in the early days, passion for mission was focused on Africa, then later on Asia. This was referenced via its name changes, at one time being known as the Northern European West Africa Division, then with the final change to the Trans-European Division, still maintaining mission connections to South Sudan, the Middle East and Pakistan. In the last decade those territories were also realigned elsewhere. For the first time in its history, the TED was only European. Mission is now primarily focused within Europe and the myriad challenges facing the continent today.

Reviewing a history lined with statistics and anecdotes, Trim posed the question, “Did church growth in mission fields come at the expense of evangelism in the home countries?” With a challenging lesson for today he asked, “Was as much effort put into translating Adventism into cultural language in Europe as it was in the Africa,” noting that the organised institutional church did not invest as much into translating from American idiom into a European context. Part of this was on the basis that Europe was seen as ‘already Christian’.

Working for the Office of Archives and Statistics, it is unsurprising that there was detailed analysis of trends in the Division with the original heartland of the Division in Scandinavia gradually being replaced more by countries further south. Yet the statistics that provide important lessons are perhaps best seen in the context of the full lecture.

Ultimately the lecture was about mission. The big questions for Trim were: “Are European Adventists in 21st century able to adjust to the changes? Can TED simply be European? Can the Church here learn to thrive in the midst of secularism, apathy, and the ‘isms’ that seem to surround it?”

Perhaps, Trim suggests, European Adventism needs to focus its energies on being as fluent in the cultural languages of the Division as they once were on the languages of the mission field – to truly focus its energies on being European.

To discover more on trends, strategy and mission in the TED of 2019 watch a recent video in the Adventist Review 'newsmakers' series.

This article was written by Victor Hulbert with Helen Pearson and originally appeared on the TED News Network website.

Images by Victor Hulbert, courtesy TED News Network.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9647
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Unless I missed it, He did not mention that European Adventism grew on a reformational base rather than a Puritan base of Methodism. It shows even today.

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We applaud the TRANS EUROPEAN DIVISION on its anniversary.

Their main claim to fame, of which they should be very proud, is that the twenty two countries which comprise their division have had a plethora of female politicians, especially heads of state — women PRESIDENTS and female PRIME MINISTERS.

While the NAD has yet to see a woman president!

These Europeans are not threatened by female authority figures. So it would seem a natural climate to inaugurate ORDAINED SDA clergywomen.

Why has this not happened ???

Especially when the headquarters are in England, home to our ninety three year old Queen and not one, but TWO female prime ministers. ( the second, recently resigned )

My only fault with them is an absolute dearth of BRITISH ( English Welsh, Scottish ) converts There are over one hundred SDA churches in London but the overwhelming majority are immigrant churches — Nigerian, Caribbean . These black Adventist are “ salt of the earth “ and not to be disparaged but there are abysmally few white English converts or white churches.

In fact there is such a dearth of British born Adventists, that the last time I attended the Stanborough Park SDA church — the BRITISH UNION CHURCH — on the far outreach of greater London, they had THREE non British pastors — a South African, a Swede and a Slovakian!

Apparently not enough British theological graduates to staff just one church in greater London!

The same could be said of the SDA church in Neuilly, greater Paris, France — filled with immigrants and nary a sight of a bone fide Frenchman! Simarlarly true of the church in Nice France!

Apparently the outreach of this Division is to third world members, and not to the indigenous populations of Europeans.

Again , not to disparage our SPLENDID immigrant Adventists, but where is the outreach to the historical indigenous populations?

,

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It would be interesting if someone like Professor Andreas Bochmann @andreas could share his views of how is the SDAism in Europe different from the SDAism in the US. I bet there are some basic differences.

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I wish we would could read different perspectives–rather then just the Adventist News Network? I can read these stories from their news outlets, which are more rose colored with favorable reports of the blessing of God.

Thank you for your invitation… :wink: You drag me into a disccusion that isn’t mine… and pose a question that is virtually impossible to answer.

How does SDAism in Europe differ from SDAism in the US?

Short answer: it depends.

Longer attempt:
Europe is far more diverse than the US. Let’s take languages: in the US primarily English, followed increasingly by Spanish. So let’s be generous and say 2. In Europe you have 2 as well … 2 dozen that is - and that is not counting dialects which differ far more than a broad Southern accent from downtown New York slang.
Each language represents at least one culture with its moores, values, practices, belief systems… okay, you get the point…
Perhaps this is one of the reasons we still have two divisions in our fairly small and decreasing field of Adventism.

Let’s come to theology - and the country I know best - Germany

  • more Lutheran than Calvinistic, at least in central Germany, the heartland of the protestant (Lutheran) reformation.
  • more critical towards institutions (including church) … different from the US we had plenty of authoritarianism in our 20th century history.
  • less icing on cakes at potlucks :slight_smile: , but far fewer vegetarians… yepp, health message is a complex thing
  • far more active in regards to Sabbath School (Germany that is, not Europe!)

What else should I mention? German Adventists in general find it hard to understand why:

  • many US Adventists support bearing arms (both, in private and in military)
  • many US Adventists support death penalty (in Europe it is viewed as barbaric and obscene)
  • many US Adventists support Trump (and that is NOT because he leans on Republicans)
  • many US Adventist revere and constantly quote Ellen White, rather than taking her seriously.

More? Scandinavian and Dutch Adventists live in a culture where equality has become far more normal than in most other countries - including the US. Equal rights for males and females, for hetero-sexual and non-heterosexual are not at all spectecular, but expected.

How much do you want to read, @GeorgeTichy? Perhaps that is enough to get a discussion going.

To be sure, TED and EUD are two European divisions. TED represents more the Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon countries (where virtually everyone speaks English, if need be), the EUD majors in countries with francophone / romanic languages (French, Spanish, Portugese, Romanian, Italian etc.). Despite their cultural differences they share a lot in their theology and almost all feel like being on the other side of the big pond. My 2 cents - or pennies, as they would say in St. Albans. :wink:

Congratulations, TED.

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Thanks Andreas, you did much more than I expected. Could not discuss European Adventism without the inout of an expert like you.Superb job.
I think it’s obvious that Adventism in Europe is much more Protestant than in America now.

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Does the fact that I, too, can’t understand these items betray my German ancestry?

Thank you so much for sharing this evaluation, @andreas

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Not just German Adventists but also French Adventists. I remember when I came to the US and noted how many Adventists were in the military. When I left France, there was still a draft and the church encouraged young people to become conscientious objectors. No such thing here in the US. I found this unsettling at the time.

In the same way, I find unsettling the fact that some Adventists (or Christians in general) in the US are for the death penalty. For me, being pro-life (supposedly for religious reasons) and pro death penalty at the same time is like being schizophrenic (above all when we consider the bias in the application of the death penalty and the wrongful convictions as demonstrated by the Innocence Project). As for voting for Trump… Well, I can understand that they didn’t want to vote for a liberal candidate but… Well, let’s say that there are many mysteries in life…

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I too must have some German component in my cells…
Well, besides their own language (Czech) my parents actually spoke German too because they lived close to the border.
This may explain my difficulties with the American Adventism… :wink: :wink: :sunglasses:

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Well, there is also a lot of hypocrisy in this realm. Many of those “pro-life” didn’t have a single word to denounce and oppose the Iraq war, that was started based on fake, deceiving reasons. Those people are not “pro-life,” they are actually “pro-death!”

Just curious, are you actually French? (I was born in San Raphael; started breathing that Mediterranean air by the beach… lol)

It could be hypocrisy… It could also be a failure to connect the dots. I have noticed that our thinking is oftentimes like a puzzle. We believe this and in another part of our mind we believe that and these beliefs are kind of floating in our head and it is only when they are side by side that we realize that they don’t fit together. This is why we need compassion and forgiveness, because sometimes we don’t know what we do… while thinking that we are wise.

Yes, I am French… Born in Paris…

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@harrpa I think it makes you a living, breathing, thinking human being. IMHO heritage plays a part because it was the culture/practice of our parents and our parents parents etc. It is the environment, the example that we are immersed in as we grow. It is also why often migrant teens are conflicted - the culture of their parents v the culture of their friends. Which culture do they embrace? Often it leads to conflict as they turn their back on one and fully embrace the other. This not just a social phenomenon - it is also seen in the church.
It is important to remember that rejection of the culture does not mean rejection of the individual. Isn’t this the stance of God? Love the sinner but hate the sin? Mankind turned its collective back on God’s culture but God still loves individual sinners, and mankind.
Europe functions because of the differences. They have different languages, different cultures. This is the expectation goining into any interaction. The US “fails” for the same reason. They have the “same” language and the same “culture”. We should be able to get along because we are the same.
On Memorial Day CNN had a special called “Red State, Blue State”. It was comedy but one of the pieces was speaking about this. In Europe, Scotland and Hungary - 1,400 miles apart two languages, two cultures. In the US, New York and Des Moines - 1,100 miles apart “same” language and “same” culture. In reality, No.

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