News

Ohioans Re-Elect President for Fourth Term

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

“What happens in Ohio happens because of you,” said Raj Attiken to the 452 delegates who packed the Worthington (Ohio) church Sunday for the 40th Regular Constituency Session of the Ohio Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Attiken (far right), who had just been re-elected president for an historic fourth full term, stood with his wife, Chandra, and the newly elected secretary/treasurer Doug Falle and his wife, Ursula, as delegates showered them with a standing ovation. “Thank you for your confidence, thank you of your efforts,” he continued. “And be assured of the best service we can offer.”

Attendees voted to consolidate the conference and its association, a step many conferences are taking to streamline operations and limit liability. Then Attiken, who chaired much of the meeting, officially welcomed seven congregations into Ohio’s sisterhood of churches and introduced the conference’s video report to constituents. “This is a report of what God has done through you,” he announced. In addition to highlighting conference-sponsored events, the video provided an encouraging overview of how Adventists in Ohio are working to meet needs in their communities. It noted, for instance, that churches collectively serve 20,000 people annually, offering everything from job training and community picnics, to operating a women’s shelter, vegetable garden and teen center. Though there were only six public evangelism initiatives during the last four years, a conference-commissioned study revealed that 32 percent of the members are involved in community ministry. As a result, 1,299 new members joined the church in Ohio during that time period.

In an unprecedented move, Attiken introduced a new public campus ministry initiative that will cost $180,000 and then proceeded to ask for an offering. “There are half a million students at 110 schools and universities in Ohio,” he explained. “Over the next two years, we plan to place taskforce workers on these campuses.” So far, members have donated $101,000 to the project, and the session offering yielded another $1,400.

Another change came when delegates approved the conference’s proposal to consolidate the executive secretary and treasurer positions and use the salary to fund Hispanic work. The secretary’s position has been vacant since March 1 when Hubert Cisneros accepted a call to the Mid-America Union Conference. Falle—officially elected to that role at the session—also replaces out-going treasurer Andy Sutton, who desires to serve in a supporting capacity that will allow for more family time. In his report to members, Sutton, acknowledged the tangible effects of the recession, but rejoiced that Ohioans still saw a 5.15 percent tithe increase over the last quadrennial (2002-2005).

After electing a new executive committee and board of education, delegates heard an impassioned report from new Mount Vernon Academy (MVA) principal Robert Stevenson: “We’ve had an outstanding year at MVA if you don’t count finances,” he said, referring to 15 Week of Prayer baptisms, “excellent” test scores, a life-changing mission trip and his visits to 26 of Ohio's 92 churches. His summation drew their applause: “Our schools exist as a haven where our young people can come to be nurtured, loved and find Jesus Christ in every classroom and every corner,” he said. “I want to be in the kingdom with your children.”