Seventh-day Adventist Church membership in the South Pacific has now exceeded 600,000, largely driven by a significant jump in the number of members in the Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM).
According to the South Pacific Division (SPD) Statistics Report presented to the Division Executive Committee last week, membership in 2020 was 609,868, compared to 567,139 in 2019. Significantly, the church’s growth rate was 7.85 percent, the highest it has been in the past ten years.
In 2020, the overall number of baptisms/professions of faith was 57,947, of which 48,622 were in PNGUM. Membership losses totaled 15,596. A calculation of gains to losses reveals that for every 3.7 people who joined the church, one left.
According to the report, there’s a significant difference in the number of Adventists in the populations of the union missions compared to the union conferences. In the Trans-Pacific Union Mission (TPUM), there is one church member per eighteen citizens; in PNGUM, it’s one per nineteen citizens; whereas in the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference, (NZPUC), the ratio is 1:261, and in the Australian Union Conference (AUC), the ratio is 1:407.
There is also a noticeable disparity in the number of members per pastor: 496:1 in PNGUM, 414:1 in TPUM, 236:1 in NZPUC, and 166:1 in AUC. Tithe per capita was AU$1,423 in AUC, AU$988 in NZPUC, AU$108 in TPUM, and AU$58 in PNGUM.
In 2020 there were 14,075 denominational employees across the division, including 3,937 teachers and 1,584 pastoral/ministerial employees.
President of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific, Glen Townend, was excited to see the growth in membership in 2020, despite difficulties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we do know is that the disciple-making methods of Discovery Bible Reading and World Changer Bibles being used in Papua New Guinea and the Trans-Pacific are really working, and that’s great to see,” said Townnend. “During the pandemic last year, they were able to meet in small groups to read the Bible and listen to each other and what God was saying. The increased involvement and relationship connection lead [sic] to this growth.”
“In Australia and New Zealand, it continues to be a challenge to reach people; however, the reach by electronic media of streamed worship services and the impact of Hope Channel in NZ and Faith FM in Australia grew significantly. These countries are very secular, and most people are not interested in the Bible, but the seed of the gospel has been sown,” he said.