Adventist president continues European visit with stops in Poland, Croatia, Serbia

News March 19, 2013

Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson brought a message of hope and encouragement to government and church representatives in Central Europe last week, stopping first in Poland.

“One of the greatest challenges we face is to accept that we are a unique group of people, with a special calling,” Wilson told members of the Warsaw Central Adventist Church. He added that Adventists should demonstrate joy and enthusiasm, sharing the gospel “with smiles on our faces.”

After a tour of the Polish Union School and Theological Seminary at Podkowa Lesna, Wilson said he was encouraged to see the mission of the church moving forward in Poland. Later, in a meeting with local church leaders, he emphasized solidarity between church leaders and members.

“I am your brother; we are fellow citizens on our way to heaven. We are no different from any other. As pastors and lay members we are all in need of Jesus,” Wilson said. “God is calling on you to keep the mission and the vision that Jesus is coming soon alive.”

Local church leaders said they were heartened by Wilson’s comments. “We do not come to church for people, yet it is encouraging to see and hear leaders like Elder Wilson and his wife, Nancy, drawing the attention of their fellow believers to the unsurpassed example of our Savior,” said Piotr Lazar, editor of the Polish Union Media Center.

With a membership of 5,800 Adventists in Poland – a country where some 38 million claim affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church – the Seventh-day Adventist Church faces evangelism challenges. But local church leaders say a recent emphasis on media outreach is making inroads, especially among young people. The Adventist Church recently launched the online Hope Channel Poland, gaining new opportunities to reach a wider audience.

In nearby Croatia, too, Adventist leaders have found success with online evangelism among both church members and the public. The Croatian Conference is now streaming outreach programs on the Internet, including a worship program with President Wilson last week. Hundreds of Croatian Adventists gathered at the First Adventist Church in Zagreb on March 13 to hear Wilson speak on religious liberty.

Earlier, the world church leader had met with Croatian President Ivo Josipović and Anrica Marinović, presidential advisor for Religious Affairs. Wilson expressed appreciation for the positive relationship between the church and government in Croatia, and outlined the work of the global Protestant denomination.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Croatia has regular meetings and a positive relationship with the president and his office, as well as with government and state institutions,” said Branko Bistrovic, president of the church’s Adriatic Union Conference, which includes Albania, Croatia and Slovenia.

“Pastor Wilson’s visit has deepened this relationship with the president, and has given him a broader picture of the worldwide work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said Bistrovic, who accompanied Wilson on the courtesy visit.

During the meeting, President Josipović accepted an invitation from the Adriatic Union Conference to visit the local Adventist college and seminary in April.

In Serbia, Wilson toured the Serbia Publishing House and new facilities for the church’s media center donated by an Adventist member. The church’s publishing house is currently operating 24 hours per day, printing magazines and books for the Great Hope Project in most of the languages spoken in the church’s Trans-European Division. The project aims to share a modern adaptation of church co-founder Ellen G. White’s book, “The Great Controversy,” worldwide. 

At the Novi Sad Adventist Church in Northern Serbia, Wilson focused on the Reformation, noting that early church reformers in Europe stood for truth, regardless the cost.

“We, too, are called to be reformers for God,” Wilson said, urging members never to act against their conscience. “Are you willing to stand by Jesus and be true to His word, even in difficult times?”

Later, Wilson met with pastors and church administrators at a leadership-training seminar opened by Bertil Wiklander, president of the church’s Trans-European Division. Wilson stressed the importance of maintaining a strong spiritual life.

“A connection with Christ in all that you do will have a powerful effect on your influence,” he said.

During a question-and-answer period following the seminar, Wilson fielded questions on creation, giving the world church leader a chance to offer an alternative to the “gap theory,” which assumes there was a gap between the “beginning” mentioned in Genesis 1:1 and God’s actual creation of the Earth. Wilson took the opportunity to reiterate the church’s belief in a literal, six-day creation week. His emphasis comes during a year in which Adventists worldwide are celebrating the Biblical account of creation.