The 19th General Assembly of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Austrian Union) in Vienna was held May 10-13. The 154 delegates elected two new officers and replaced some of the department directors.
Pastor Christian Grassl (51), President of the Austrian Union from 2013 to 2018, was not available for re-election. Pastor Reinhard Schwab (40) was elected as his successor. He had previously led the youth department of the Adventist Church in Austria. Christian Gerer (54), Chief Financial Officer from 1995 to 2018, will be succeeded in autumn by Stefan Giuliani (27), who has a Master's Degree in Business Administration and is currently working for a bank. Pastor Oliver Fichtberger (49) was reelected as Executive Secretary. He is in this position since 2009.
Pastor Reinhard Schwab, the newly elected Adventist president in Austria, completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter. He completed the theological training (1997-2002) at “Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen”. Schwab spent two years as a pastoral assistant in Switzerland. Since 2005 he has worked for the Adventist Church in Austria as a pastor and department leader for children and young people.
General Assembly and “Union Conference”
The General Assembly took place from Thursday, May 10 to Sunday, May 13. On Friday evening, May 12, the public screening of a film marked the beginning of the so-called "Union Conference", the spiritual assembly, which started on Saturday, when about 2,300 Adventists from Austria came to the “Austria Center Vienna”. The day was marked by the divine service, a variety of special music, a panel discussion on current educational challenges. The “Union Conference” ended with a sacred concert performed by the choir and orchestra of the “Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen”, the largest educational institution of the Church in Austria.
“Intense and demanding time”
This year's General Assembly, that is held every five years, was "particularly intensive and demanding" for the members of the nomination committee. It was characterized by significant structural changes, according to the information letter from the Austrian Adventist church leadership to the parishes. “Times of change are times of reorientation and open new opportunities”, concluded the letter. It is now important to pray together "for all people and communities affected by the changes".
A detailed discussion on the subject of "education and training" was conducted at the meeting in addition to the elections.
Five new churches have been welcomed in the Adventist Church in Austria. They have been founded since the last General Assembly in 2013. The bylaws of the church have been updated and accepted by the delegates.
"Together" is the motto for the next five years, in which the church leadership has the goal to be in close dialogue with the local churches, to support them in the achievement of their goals and to support them in coping with challenges”, said Oliver Fichtberger, Executive Secretary of the Adventist Church in Austria. This takes precedence over national projects of the departments, whose future focus also lies on the individual regional support of the local communities.
Adventists in Austria
The protestant Seventh-day Adventist Church in Austria has more than 4,200 members. They worship each Saturday, the biblical day of rest, in 55 churches and 9 groups. The Adventist Church in Austria maintains a publishing house, the development and relief agency ADRA Austria, “Hope-Media” closely linked to the European media centre "Voice of Hope", and an education network consisting of five private schools and the educational centre: “Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen” which includes, high school, Faculty of Theology, German as foreign language and Education, with offers a teaching degree for the primary level.