Photo above: Atlantic Union Conference 30th Constituency Session, June 19, 2016, at Machlan Auditorium in Lancaster, Massachusetts.
First and foremost, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a spiritual movement with a focus on hastening the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and preparing people to meet Him. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is also an organized community of believers from around the world.
With more than 21 million people as members, the church has a system of organization based on five levels: the local church, the local conference, the union conference, the division, and the General Conference. Each level of the church has the same overall mission but functions differently in carrying out the mission.
The Adventist Church has a representative form of government. Church members at each level are part of a constituency—a group of voters representing a specified region who address church business, elect representatives, and have ultimate say in who leads the church. The church business meetings, or constituency sessions, typically occur every four years (quadrennium) or five years (quinquennium).
On August 14, 2022, designated delegates representing church members from around the Atlantic Union Conference territory will meet in Boxbourgh, Massachusetts, for the 31st Regular Atlantic Union Conference Constituency Session. The coronavirus pandemic and its resulting restrictions, lockdowns, and general health concerns prompted the postponement of many constituency sessions—from the General Conference down to the local conference.
The Atlantic Union Conference Constituency Session, which is usually held every five years, was scheduled to convene in June 2021, but was also postponed due to the pandemic. Thus, 2022 is an unusual year in that the Atlantic Union Constituency Session takes place in the same year as the 61st General Conference Session, as well as several conference sessions.
How Are Delegates Selected?
The Atlantic Union Conference is made up of six local conferences: Bermuda, Greater New York, New York, Northeastern, Northern New England, and Southern New England. Each local conference is represented by one delegate “without regard to conference membership,” plus one additional delegate for each 250 “church members or major fractions thereof,” based on the total membership of the church as reported at the end of the fourth quarter of the previous year, or in this case, December 31, 2021.
The executive committee from each local conference chooses the delegates and must adhere to guidelines established in the Atlantic Union Conference Constitution and Bylaws to ensure a diverse representation, “including women, youth, and representatives of major ethnic groups.” In addition, at least one-half of the delegates must be laypersons, or people not employed by the denomination, and approximately half of those persons must be women.
Some of those who attend the session are “delegates-at-large.” These persons have all the rights and privileges of regular delegates but make up a small percentage of the total number of delegates. Delegates-at-large may be members of the Atlantic Union Conference Executive Committee, Atlantic Union Conference Association or Constitution and Bylaws Committee; members of the General Conference and North American Division executive committees; and staff of the Atlantic Union Conference and its institutions.
What Happens at a Constituency Session?
The delegates will receive reports from union leaders for the past six years ending December 31, 2021, and conduct additional church business, including electing officers, departmental directors, and an executive committee and a constitution and bylaws committee. The session is also an opportunity to discuss any changes made to the union constitution and bylaws. Delegates will also vote on these proposed changes.
Another way of looking at a constituency session is that it is also a time to praise God and give Him thanks as we celebrate accomplishments and highlights from various ministries, department activities and events, evangelism, and more.
How Are Individuals Selected to Serve in Leadership Positions?
During the constituency session, the delegates select an Organizing Committee that selects a Nominating Committee and other committees as may be necessary. The Nominating Committee prepares a list of individuals to serve as officers and departmental directors for the next term of office in the Atlantic Union Conference. The committee convenes in an area separate from the constituency session to discuss the nominees. They later return to the session to recommend the names to the delegates who in turn discuss and bring the names to a vote.
The days and times in which we are living call for men and women in positions of leadership to faithfully carry forward the work. The Atlantic Union Conference serves to support and facilitate our six conferences and institutions in reaching all people with the Adventist Christ-centered message of hope and wholeness. Those who stand in positions of leadership “will have to wrestle with difficulties, carry burdens, give advice, plan and execute, constantly looking to God for help,”—Gospel Workers, p. 417.
10 Days of Prayer – August 4-13, 2022
Prior to the 31st Atlantic Union Constituency Session, we invite you to join us for 10 Days of Prayer from August 4 to August 13. Each day at 7:15 p.m., join the Atlantic Union Conference Prayer Ministries Department on Zoom to pray for the upcoming session and for God’s Spirit to lead each decision. On Zoom, use the Meeting ID: 950 4037 5162 and Passcode: 205302.
THE LOCAL CHURCH
In the chain of church organization, the local church is the most important. It is here that fellowship, friendship, caring, worship, sharing the good news about Jesus, and making a difference in the community take place. The concentrated effort of all levels of the church organization is focused on a growing, vibrant church community. There are 604 churches and 97 companies/missions in the Atlantic Union territory (as of December 31, 2021).
THE LOCAL CONFERENCE
State and area conferences are made up of a number of churches in their territory with the purpose of facilitating, strengthening, and coordinating the work of the church. The local conference headquarters serves as an administrative and departmental resource for the local churches. There are six conferences in the Atlantic Union: Bermuda (3,937 members); Greater New York (32,576); New York (6,032); Northeastern (61,081); Northern New England (5,327); and Southern New England (20,120); (membership statistics as of December 31, 2021).
THE UNION CONFERENCE
Union conferences are the third level of church organization which are made up of the local conferences within their territory. The union’s primary work is administrative and financial, focusing on education, youth, religious liberty, legal issues, language groups, and trust services. Unions coordinate and unify the emphasis of mission among the conferences. Planning for accountability and binding the efforts of the church together are the union’s main functions. There are 129,073 members within the Atlantic Union territory (as of December 31, 2021). The Atlantic Union is the fourth largest of the nine unions in the North American Division.
The World Church is divided into divisions—the next level of church organization. The North American Division, one of 13 divisions, of the Adventist Church, has oversight for all the churches, conferences, and unions in the United States, Bermuda, Canada, Guam, and Micronesia. It has the responsibility of coordinating the division’s mission projects, evangelistic efforts, and health and educational institutions. The North American Division has 1,267,711 church members in its territory comprised of nine unions and one mission (as of June 30, 2021).
THE GENERAL CONFERENCE
The General Conference world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is made up of 13 divisions and attached fields with a total membership of 21,852,721 and 93,928 churches (as of June 30, 2021).