May 21, 2020 | St Albans, United Kingdom |
There is an upside to the current travel restrictions. Online meetings save travel time and money. Zoom fatigue helps officers develop agendas that focus on the essential. With positive goodwill that is attainable.
This was certainly the case for the 48 participants of the Trans-European Division (TED) Spring Meetings, who joined by Zoom for an intense but productive morning on Monday, May 18, 2020.
The spring Executive Committee brings together union presidents, lay and pastoral representatives, TED officers, and directors for an agenda that traditionally focuses on finance. Such an agenda was never more important than during this current period of financial insecurity.
Careful, responsible budgeting and fiscal planning
Nenad Jepuranović, TED Treasurer, presented the 2019-audited statements and budget controls. These demonstrated that the TED treasury had been financially prudent and so projected to be in a good position to weather the current crisis while continuing to support mission across the various Unions and attached fields that make up the 22 countries in its territory. These include healthy reserves and working capital from previous years. Participants were also delighted to hear that the auditors gave the TED a clean audit report.
However, there is no complacency, and the next stage of the morning was a review of the 2020 budget as voted in November 2019. Careful cost-cutting and pruning by the treasury team led to a vote for a 30 percent reduction in the current budget. Some of the savings are organic, such as a 45% cut in travel costs, the cancellation of events, and reduced utility bills as a result of a closed office. Departmental budgets have also been trimmed, while directors look for creative ways to provide online support and resourcing for their counterparts in the various unions, conferences, and missions.
What became very clear is that vital support at the grassroots level is essential. Churches are shut, resulting in a tithe drop in most unions – though this may well bounce back as churches reopen. Many members are also struggling financially, many with reduced incomes, or even losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic. However, even in difficult times, Adventist members are renowned for their faithfulness, among them Meropi Gjika, who hid and saved her tithe for four decades during Albania’s totalitarian era. [See more: Adventist Church Leaders Meet Albania’s Prime Minister] (https://ted.adventist.org/news/430-adventist-church-leaders-meet-albania-s-prime-minister)
How can the Division help? To assist unions that may be struggling, the committee voted to pull on its reserves to provide carefully formulated loans to assist struggling fields with their cashflow. These will help tide unions through the current crisis. The loans will be interest-free for the first twelve months and then at a low interest rate for up to a maximum of ten years.
There was also a serious discussion on event planning. With most summer camps and major events canceled for 2020, what kind of provisions should be made for the following years? If events are held, can people afford to attend them? And if events are large and international, what are the risks of becoming a COVID-19 hotspot? On the other hand, if events are canceled, what effect will that have on the spiritual development and mission of those who can no longer attend? That last thought weighed heavily on people’s minds.
No firm decisions on events were made at this meeting, but research and discussion will help formulate a more detailed roadmap for the future. That future may become clearer at an extra-ordinary Executive Committee meeting to be held in the summer.
What was key in the discussion was a need to support our members and particularly our youth through critical decision-making times. It was emphasized several times in the 2 ½-hour meeting that mission is core. Mission is one part of the budget that will not be cut. Over the past five years, the TED Mission Board has provided £1.1 million (approximately $1,345,135.00) of funding. “That kind of funding will continue,” President Raafat Kamal said. “[with] no cuts and we are still open for business to help our fields with mission-focused initiatives.”
Education Director Daniel Duda also noted that the same applies to sponsorship educational funds. These assist in the development of the next generation of leaders within the TED and beyond.
What of the future?
With the General Conference Session postponed until May 2021, the committee voted to extend contracts for all directors and officers until the summer of 2021. The TED officers (president, executive secretary, and treasurer) will be elected during the GC Session, 20-25 May. TED delegates will stay one extra day to elect the rest of the team on Wednesday, 26 May. This will then allow the new team to flesh out the strategic operational plan, which can then be voted in November 2021 at the TED Year-End Meetings.
One thing is certain: The desire will continue, with ever-increasing urgency, to reach Europe for God. As Lidija Djordjevic Runic, a pastoral representative from the South-East European Union concluded in prayer, delegates thanked God for His protection in these unprecedented times, expressed gratitude for the commitment of our pastors, leaders and church members, and committed to continued, positive service, thankful for the message of hope Seventh-day Adventists have to share.