Name: Milt Erhart
City, State: Boise, Idaho
For 19 years I was a very successful pastor, serving 8 years on two different conference executive committees. Chaired two college/university planning and endowment programs. All three kids graduated from SDA College and two from LL Medical School. For a number of years virtually all Union conferences used my services in investing their Revolving Funds. Thus believe I know the "good and the bad" of the church.
The overriding reason the local conferences need to be dissolved, is they serve no purpose or Mission. Especially the smaller conferences act like they are in competition with their own churches promoting Mega Book sales, etc., yet have no vertical marketing plan to bring those interests developed into a local church, since they are not affiliated with a local church.
The annual savings in staff salaries, conference operations, travel, insurance, secretaries, etc. approaches $70 Million per year in North America. This is an insane waste of money and energy that as Ezekiel says is just "wheels within wheels." In the olden days conferences had youth departments, lay activities departments and even viable education departments. Now in addition to a president there are various VP's, even in some instances a paid appointed prayer coordinator. Go figure.
Several years ago my suggestions were published in Adventist Today. The full article is online if interested.
The reality is that local churches have been psychologically emasculated ---waiting for the conference to provide guidance. Thus while Evangelicals and everyone else is growing with dynamic lay involvement most SDA churches are stagnant, filled with old people and dying. There is absolutely no empowerment.
My proposal includes having church expense and tithe merged into one---the local church pay 28% of those funds to the Union conference, some of which go into the retirement fund. Since the school system is almost gone. Turn the entire operations over to the local churches, let them allocate their resources between ministerial and educational, not the conference. This includes the academy system which in too many instances the number of board members equals at least 40% of the student body. Again, it is absolutely insane to see this enormous waste of dollars and energy.
Having chaired two pastoral search committees know there is no "data" base to work with when looking for a pastor. Usually the administration either supplies no names or no one under 55, having no clue who would be the best fit for that church.
The Union should add at least 2, possibly 3 presidential regional assistants to help mediate local church disputes either between themselves or with their pastor. These are minor costs compared to the approximately 50 conferences eliminated.
With the advent of Skype-----churches could conference directly to these assistants, many times eliminating the travel requirements.
In all likelihood the educational system is on its last legs having been run into the ground by well-meaning church leaders. At a time when most of nation is getting more religious, our churches are shrinking. Empower the laity---nothing else has worked.
Keeping the conferences---eliminating the Unions doesn't save near enough money and again the conferences no longer serve any useful purpose. Yet to have some structure and keep in place a unified Mission the Union conferences should remain. And the Unions already run most of the trusts, insurance, religious liberty, education. The cost of running payroll out of a local conference should have been eliminated 50 years ago. I worked for a Wall Street firm with 125,000 employees----received my check (pay) twice a month and never a mistake for twenty plus years.
Again go to Adventist Today for more "meat on the skeleton."