BURLESON, TEX. – The Executive Committee of the Southwestern Union met for its regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 23 via Zoom.
A devotional message, “Hearing God’s Voice,” was presented by Southwest Region Conference President Calvin Watkins, Sr., followed by a report on the Southwest Region Conference, presented by Watkins and Philip Palmer, Southwest Region Conference’s treasurer. Highlights from the report included the conference’s emphasis on evangelism via digital media, family ministries, youth programming, religious liberty, the development of an active media ministry and continuing campground development at Lone Star Camp.
Penny Johnson, president and CEO of Texas Health Huguley Fort Worth South, reported on the activity of the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that no employees of the hospital have been furloughed during the pandemic, which allowed the hospital to serve individuals in its normal, high-quality manner.
She also reported on expansion as it relates to the Dec. 1, 2020, opening of the newest facility in the AdventHealth family, Texas Health Mansfield in Mansfield, Tex., a 60-bed hospital that will employ 400 people.
Southwestern Union Executive Secretary Buford Griffith presented the Southwestern Union membership report. As of Aug. 31, 2020, membership across the Southwestern Union territory was 124,109.
Southwestern Adventist University
Ken Shaw, president of Southwestern Adventist University, reported on the status of the university, noting an increase in enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The current enrollment stands at 772.
Shaw also reported that the university was the recent recipient of the U.S. Department of Education Title V Grant totaling $2,517,376 over five years. This grant is given to Hispanic-serving institutions; the university has a Hispanic student population that constitutes 45 percent of the student body. Shaw reported that the grant would be used to create a first-year experience to increase retention; optimize advising; provide greater career awareness; and expand internships.
The committee voted to approve the recommendation from the Texas Conference for commissioning and ordination of the following pastoral candidates. Commissioned: Allison Casillas; Olga Falakiseni. Ordained: Stephen Kabah; Ki Taek (Keith) Lim; Sergio L. Ochaeta; Orlando Rosales; Adrian Solis; Marlon Adauto Wallas.
Operating Statement and Revolving Fund Report
John Page, Southwestern Union treasurer, presented the July 31, 2020, operating financial statement and revolving fund report, noting appropriations to conferences and new church loans. Page reported that, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, through Aug. 20, tithe remains strong across the Southwestern Union with an increase of around one percent compared with 2019. Additionally, he reported that in order to assist churches during this time, the revolving fund allowed churches and conferences with loans to pay interest only payments or the full loan payment from April to September.
Carol Campbell, vice president for education, reported on schools reopening amongst the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Campbell, superintendents, principals and teachers in Southwestern Union schools have worked relentlessly during the pandemic to develop and implement plans for reopening for fall.
They have been supported with resources from all levels of the Adventist school system—North American Division, Southwestern Union and local conferences. The plans have been contextualized to meet state and public school district protocols in which schools reside. Campbell noted that enrollment has been impacted by COVID-19, with an approximately 14 percent decrease in enrollment across the Southwestern Union.
Campbell expressed gratitude for the Southwestern Union’s educational relief fund, which is providing appropriations to schools impacted by COVID-19. “The Lord continues to bless through the challenges, and we look to Him for guidance as Adventist education advances in the Southwestern Union,” said Campbell.
The meeting concluded with inspiring reports from the men’s ministries, children’s ministries and women’s ministries departments, highlighting several online and virtual events that took place during the summer and early fall.
The events included the children’s ministries department assisting the North American Division by hosting a live “at home” Vacation Bible School, and the inaugural men’s ministries virtual gathering in September, Stronger Together, which has been a catalyst for growth in men’s ministries across the Southwestern Union.
The meeting was adjourned with prayer by James Winegardner, pastor. The next executive committee meeting will take place on Nov. 12.