During the October 2005 Annual Council at the Adventist world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, delegates voted to create the Commission on Ministries, Services and Structures. This group of 100 people, including representatives from the world church and local church regions as well as lay members and pastors, is commissioned to research the effectiveness of current denominational structure, propose adjustments, outline an implementation strategy, and determine membership response to major proposals for organizational change.
This process engages a structure with roots that go back to a biblical example. When Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, once visited the camp of the Israelites, he noticed that Moses was spending most of his day settling disputes among the people. Jethro advised Moses to get some help. “Let me give you a word of advice,” he said, “and may God be with you.… Select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.... They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace” (Exodus 18:13–26, NLT).
Ellen White wrote in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, p. 652, “[God] designs that we should learn lessons of order and organization from the perfect order instituted in the days of Moses for the benefit of the children of Israel.”
The Adventist Church is patterned after this principle of organization—seeking to divide the work into manageable segments so that all needs are met without anyone bearing an undue share of the load.
Each level of the church organization is organized to be “representative,” reflecting a democratic process. Local churches elect their officers and church boards as well as delegates for their local conference. The local conference works as an immediate support base for the local churches in a state or small geographical region.
Union conferences provide support for a group of local conferences through services that would be too expensive or inefficient for each conference (especially small conferences) to supply. Divisions cover the large continental areas of the world (such as the North American Division covering Canada, Bermuda and the U.S.). The union conferences work directly within the divisions and the overall General Conference to create a balance of resources between local conferences and the world church.
Echoing that basic structure, the North Pacific Union Conference constitution specifies that the primary purpose for its existence is for evangelism that “is to teach the everlasting gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” It further states that the union is to provide “leadership, the coordination and the rendering of service to the local conferences in Christian ministry...Christian education... and support for the worldwide missionary program of the General Conference...”
The union conference president represents the church at various meetings, advises local conference administrators, and provides leadership or input to the various committees of the local conferences, the North American Division and the General Conference. These committees are designed to ensure that the diverse membership of the Adventist Church not only has a voice in how the mission is carried forward but also a process of accountability.