Formality?

 

[Sunday, February 10] Today was an important day for the Adventist Church in Belgium. For some time the church was in the process of looking for a new president. I was appointed as president in September 2011, but from day one it was clear that I would only be a kind of ‘interim-pope’ (excuses for the word!). I promised to do the job for about a year, but not much longer. And thus, some months ago I began reminding my fellow church leaders that they had to become more serious about finding a permanent solution. As a result, a process was started that was completed today with the election of pastor Jeroen Tuinstra (from the Netherlands) as the new leader.

Today delegates from all Adventist churches in Belgium and Luxemburg assembled to vote about a proposal of the federation committee. I image that some may have thought that the meeting was, in fact, a bit of an anticlimax. After all, the vote was just about one name: for or against. It was to be expected that there would be a significant majority in favor of the proposal, since no alternative was offered. Maybe some felt, however, that it resembled an election in a communist country, where the outcome of a vote is without any surprise. Is it reasonable to call people from all over the country on a cold February Sunday morning to Woluwe (near Brussels) to put a circle around ‘oui’ or ‘non’ on their ballot ticket?

I will be the last one to suggest that the election system of the Adventist Church is perfect. But there is no doubt that this more or less symbolic act by the representatives of the local churches, was preceded by a very serious and careful process. There was an intensive search for possible candidates. Several of them were interviewed at length by a committee that is responsible for “human resources”. Eventually, this resulted in the proposal that was put to the delegates today, in conformity with Belgian law. I did not get involved in the details, for I felt it was not in good taste for me to say too much about the person who was to succeed me.

During the next few weeks I will transfer my tasks to Jeroen Tuinstra. Officially, he starts per 1 April. Together with the secretary and the treasurer of the federation we have set aside a number of days in the coming weeks to talk at length about many things that have happened in the past 18 months, but also about the things that we have not been able to give due attention. I will tell him about things that, I believe, went well, but also about the things that did not go so well. I will try to give an honest picture of the opportunities and the challenges, but also of the rather awkward problems that he will find on his plate.

It has been a fascinating period for me—an unexpected bonus at the end of my church career. I look back on the past period with a lot of satisfaction, but it is also true that I look forward to getting a bit of rest. I may have brought a degree of experience with me that the church in the BLF has been able to profit from. My successor will yet have to gain most of his experience.  But that may be an advantage rather than a disadvantage. By electing Jeroen Tuinstra, the church in Belgium and Luxemburg has opted for the future, for the young people in the church, for a fresh and contemporary approach. I congratulate him with the challenging task that is ahead of him. But I also congratulate the church in the Belgian-Luxembourg Federation with the fact that they have not opted for routine and tradition, but for vision, openness and renewal! May God bless this choice! And, I trust that Jeroen will receive the same kind of warm reception that I have experienced in the period of my interim-presidency!