The 64th South England Conference (SEC) Session concluded on Sunday, 10th September 2023, at Essex University, Colchester Campus. It marks the start of a new era in the administration of the SEC with the election of a new President, Dr. Kirk Thomas; Executive Secretary, Pastor Nathan Stickland; and Treasurer, Ann Swaby.
546 delegates from over 200 churches gathered in the University's Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall for the four-day constituency meeting held every four years to conduct the business of the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the Conference level. The agenda included several significant items, such as the election of administration and departmental officers, the formation of the governing Executive Committee, and proposed changes to the constitution. In addition to delegates and observers, notable guests also attended, including Todd McFarland, the Deputy General Counsel of the General Conference, who served as the Parliamentarian, providing expertise and advice on procedural matters.
Opening & Spiritual Emphasis
The Session began with the attendees seeking divine guidance and blessings in prayer. The keynote address by guest speaker, Pr. Pardon Mwansa, focused on the importance of prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit to guide the Conference's proceedings. His words served as a reminder of the sacred responsibility each delegate bore in shaping the future of the SEC. Mwansa also delivered daily devotionals throughout the four days.
Reports from various departments were given, detailing the activities of the past quadrennium. Attendees asked questions and sought insights on various departmental decisions, structures, budgets, and how to guide the work of the Conference going forward. Prolonged discussions followed the President's report, the Executive Secretary's report, proposed constitutional changes, and the Treasurer's report, presented by Dr. Emmanuel Osei, Pastor Douglas McCormac, and Ann Swaby, respectively.
The issues covered included, evangelistic focus, strategic priorities, decisions made during the COVID-19 lockdown, namely the use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough), and plans for the Conference's Hay's Wood Retreat. Proposed changes to the SEC Constitution, intended to align it closer to the model of the higher entities (British Union Conference, Trans-European Conference, and General Conference), were voted against. Another notable decision made included an increase in the overall budget following a vote to add a Music Ministries Department.
Day of Fellowship
On Sabbath, delegates set aside business matters and enjoyed a day of worship. Newbold College Principal, Dr. Steve Currow, led the Sabbath School lesson, and Dr. Michael Mbui shared a presentation on Ministry in the Community. For the divine service, Pr. Mwansa delivered the sermon 'Discipling with Hope,' based on the "blessed hope" of Jesus' return, which he described as "the hallmark of the Seventh-day Adventist Church."
Sabbath also provided the first opportunity for the SEC constituency to greet newly elected President, Dr. Kirk Thomas. His first official duty was the service of ordination and commissioning for seven pastors (6 males, 1 female). During the service, Dr. Emmanuel Osei delivered a powerful homily on the privileges and responsibilities of shepherding a flock. Osei reminded ordinands and attendees that ministry is not about the seats of power or the spotlight but about serving with humility and dedication. He urged pastors to remember the true Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who faced criticism and opposition but remained steadfast in His mission.
The final day of the Session saw the election of departmental directors and the Executive Committee. Departmental roles that could not be voted on within the allotted time were left to be appointed by the Executive Committee. Non-returning directors and officers were thanked for their years of service and leadership and stood together with the new directors in prayer at the front of the auditorium in a show of support and unity. Dr. Kirk Thomas also paid special tribute to his "mentor and friend," outgoing SEC President, Dr. Emmanuel Osei, and his family.
In his closing address, Thomas challenged the delegation, proclaiming, "It is time to get up and Go SEC." He spoke about making every church and group "a centre of evangelism, discipleship, conservation, and retention" and made several commitments, including "bringing back our young people from the four corners of this Conference into churches where they will feel part of and where they can make a difference and do something for God." Concluding, he pledged, "I will be a President who will listen to you. I will do my best to help you and help this Conference grow and develop, enabling you to have a sense of satisfaction in serving God and His church."