The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a family of Christian believers who are united in mission, purpose and belief. Regardless of which part of the world you’re in, you can find Adventists seeking to follow biblical principles of Christ-like living, communicating, discipling, teaching, healing, and serving.
Guided by the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:12, the Seventh-day Adventist Church strives to operate as one unified body. This body has many members, all filling different roles, but working together toward the same goal: building up the body of Christ and preparing others for His soon return (John 14:3).
We’ll look at:
- The Seventh-day Adventist Church as a global family
- How the Seventh-day Adventist Church operates on each level
- Divisions of the General Conference
- Division profiles
- Attached Fields and Union Missions
- The Church’s united mission to make disciples of Christ
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Global Family
With a membership of over 21 million in 13 regions of the world, you’re sure to find an Adventist congregation, school, hospital, ministry or administrative office nearby.
The denomination is organized in such a way that members around the globe can efficiently work together and empower each other for united ministry.
Let’s explore this a bit further.
How Does the Seventh-day Adventist Church operate at each level?
Have you ever thrown a stone into water and watched ripples expand as they move outward? Similar to the ripples in the water, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has concentric circles of organization to support its membership, beginning with the local church.
A local Adventist congregation is made up of members who love Jesus and desire to follow His example of loving service by using the talents and gifts God has given them (1 Cor. 12:4-11). Typically, each congregation gathers for worship and study each Sabbath, as well as any additional social or ministry activities during the week.
Sometimes local congregations have their own church building, sometimes it’s a rented space, or sometimes the meeting place is rotated between homes, public spaces, or other types of locations.
Led by an appointed pastor, local elders, and a locally-elected church board, these congregations don’t operate in isolation but share financial resources, identity, and mission with other congregations in their region. This representative form of church organization means that authority in the Church comes from local church members who choose local leaders, and have a voice in decisions made at other levels of denominational structure.
All of the churches within a specific area, often a state, province or territory, are organized into conferences. Conferences help provide administrative support and representation to the churches in their respective regions.
Conference constituents from those local congregations meet periodically to elect conference officers, departmental directors and trustees to provide administrative support for the region. Other leaders are chosen to support local church ministries and provide resources, information and encouragement to local church ministry leaders.
Conferences within a larger territory, such as multiple regions or even borders of a country, are organized into union conferences. Constituents elect union officers to provide support, communication and a basis for collaboration across large territories.
Union conferences share resources for things like mission objectives, Adventist education, and special projects that may go beyond conference lines. Union leadership facilitates communication and representation between different levels of church leadership and local territories.
All of the previously mentioned entities are part of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the coordinative hub of ministries, activities and initiatives for the world-wide Church.
General Conference and Its Divisions
The General Conference (GC) is overseen by an administrative team and governing body, all of which are elected at General Conference Sessions which occur every five years. The GC coordinates the work the denomination does collectively on a global scale, interfacing with division leaders who coordinate activities in their parts of the world.
The world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, [HB1] houses a number of departments and services that support the global denomination and its needs. All of these entities exist to uphold the Adventist promise to help others understand the Bible and find freedom, healing and hope in Jesus.
Divisions of the General Conference
To facilitate its worldwide activity, the GC established regional offices, known as divisions, who have administrative and supervisory responsibilities for groups of unions and other church units within specific geographic areas of the world.
Here is a brief overview of each division:
The East-Central Africa division encompasses Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Over 4 million members worship in nearly 17,400 churches across the region.
The Euro-Asia division covers Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Inter-American division is comprised of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). This division reports more than 3.5 million members attending nearly 15,000 churches.
The Inter-European division oversees the work of the Adventist church in Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Holy See, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland. Approximately 180,000 members worship in nearly 2,600 churches.
The North American Division is home to 1.2 million members worshiping in almost 5,700 churches across Bermuda, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Johnston Island, Marshall Islands, Midway Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, United States of America, Wake Island, and the French possession of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
This region encompasses Bangladesh, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. Nearly 320,000 members worship in more than 1060 churches across the territory.
The South American division serves Argentina, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, with adjacent islands in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There are nearly 14,400 churches to serve the 2.5 million members in this region.
The Adventist Church in this region supports nearly 586,000 members and 2,200 churches across American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna Islands.
This division covers Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini (new name for Swaziland – 2018), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Reunion, Saint Helena (including Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha), Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Over 4.3 million members worship in nearly 12,800 congregations across the territory.
The Southern Asia division serves Bhutan, India, and the Maldives, with nearly 1.4 million members worshiping in more than 4,500 churches throughout the region.
The Church in this region covers Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste, as well as Vietnam. Over 1.6 million members worship in more than 8,050 churches.
This division serves the Aland Islands, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greece, Greenland, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia (the new name for The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – 2019), Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the southern portion of Cyprus. Close to 89,000 members meet in nearly 1,200 churches.
The West-Central Africa division covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. The Church in this region reports nearly 87,000 members worshiping in almost 4,800 churches.
Attached Fields and Union Missions
An “attached field” or “mission” refers to a region where the Adventist Church has a presence but limited resources to support outreach initiatives. These territories are assigned directly to another larger organization to temporarily assist with oversight, finances and leadership.
The Chinese Union Mission serves China, including Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions. In this territory there are over 472,000 Adventists worshiping in around 1,100 churches.
The administrative office in Israel serves nearly 1,000 members in 14 churches.
The Middle East North Africa Union serves the countries of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara,* Yemen, and the northern half of Cyprus. Around 5,200 members worship in nearly 60 churches across the territory.
*Western Sahara is a contested area not universally recognized as a separate country or region.
During its annual Spring Meeting, the Executive Committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to attach the Ukrainian Union Conference, the Church’s administrative region covering the country of Ukraine, directly to the GC, until other comprehensive arrangements can be made.
United in Mission to Make Disciples of Christ
The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official mission statement is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ who live as His loving witnesses and proclaim to all people the everlasting gospel of the Three Angels’ Messages in preparation for His soon return (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Revelation 14:6-12).”
The organizational structure of the Church has been developed with this primary objective in mind. In order to successfully accomplish the mission laid out by Jesus in Matthew 28: 18-20, members, ministries, and institutions serve within their calling, collaborate together, and share their resources so no part of the world has to be without help and support.
In the spirit of the Early Church (Acts 15:2, 6), challenges and decisions are addressed as a family of representative leaders—from the local church board to administrative councils composed of church representatives from across the globe.
This well-organized internal structure helps ensure—though only with the blessing and guidance of the Holy Spirit—that Seventh-day Adventist Church members can effectively proclaim the Gospel message of our Savior Jesus, who gives us freedom, healing and hope, in their communities and throughout the world.