Wisconsin Conference Holds 39th Constituency Session

Wisconsin Conference Holds 39th Constituency Session

Officers and directors elected at the 39th Constituency Session: Brian Stephan, executive secretary/treasurer; Titus Naftanaila, president; Bill Ochs, trust services and planned giving director;
Adam Case, ministerial director, Zack Payne, youth director; Sue Nelson, superintendent for education

On the morning of October 16, 2022, over 270 delegates and delegates at large from across the state of Wisconsin came together to attend the 39th Constituency Session of the Wisconsin Conference. The session, held in the Wisconsin Academy chapel, began with a time of singing led by Mark Ringwelski. Lake Union Executive Secretary, Elden Ramirez, gave the invocation followed by a musical selection by Ringwelski who invited the congregation to join in singing the words, “Where He leads me I will follow. I’ll go with Him all the way.”

President Titus Naftanaila gave a short devotional thought from Isaiah 6, calling the delegates to contemplate the holiness of God more fully, recognize our sinfulness in relation to His holiness, and then respond to His call by allowing Him to cleanse us, prepare us and send us in service to others. The morning worship concluded with the opening prayer given by Lake Union Treasurer, Glynn Scott.

Naftanaila welcomed all delegates and guests as well as representatives from the Lake Union including, President Ken Denslow, Executive Secretary Elden Ramirez, Treasurer Glynn Scott and General Vice President, Carmelo Mercado. Naftanaila said, “Today is our turn to respond to God’s call to do business.” He gave special appreciation to Sean Parker, director of the Lake Union Information Services department, for setting up the remote voting system as well as Felicia Tonga, photographer from the Lake Union Herald.

Brian Stephan, executive secretary/treasurer, began the business of the day by reading the Official Notice of the 39th Constituency Session for the Wisconsin Conference and President Naftanaila officially opened the session. He then introduced the parliamentarian, Karnik Doukmetzian, General Council for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the delegates voted him as parliamentarian for the session. Next, the procedures of the day were explained by Stephan and Naftanaila.

Following the approval of the agenda for the session and the minutes from the 2018 session, Naftanaila gave the President’s Report beginning with an overview of the past 4 years and how the Wisconsin Conference has followed it’s mission and service initiatives. He shared his thankfulness for the leadership of Mike Edge, former Wisconsin Conference president, through the first half of this quadrennium. He also expressed appreciation for the many years of service given by Juanita Edge, former Communication Director.

In his report, Naftanaila also shared what God has been doing in each of the departments of the Wisconsin Conference. He shared his gratitude and appreciation for the service of those who served as department directors that have either retired or moved to new positions since the last constituency session: former Superintendent for Education, Linda Rosen, who retired in 2019, former Planned Giving and Trust Services Director, Cindy Stephan, who is now working for It Is Written, and former Youth Director, Eric Chavez, who is now serving as Youth Director in the Texico Conference.

The report from the Ministerial Department showed that the Wisconsin Conference is currently made up of 62 churches, 11 companies and 17 church plants. The Volunteer Lay Pastor program currently involves forty individuals with 8 of these pastoring their own churches under the supervision of a district pastor. God has blessed Wisconsin even amidst COVID through bringing, in 2021, the highest number of baptisms in the last 9 years – two hundred and twenty five! The department’s goals for this year are to have 2,400 Bible studies and 240 baptisms.

Next he talked about how God is working in the Education Department. Currently the schools in Wisconsin have an enrollment of four hundred students, the highest in the last 5 years. One new school has be opened, the Frederic Adventist Christian School. The department’s goal is to focus on leadership training and has hired Mindy Salyers, a professional counselor to be a support to our conference teachers and schools.

The Planned Giving and Trust Services Department is currently responsible for four hundred Estate Plans and has initiated over one hundred and twenty new or updated Wills, Trusts and Charitable Gift Annuities. They continue to maintain Level A accreditation, the highest standard in the denomination. In the last four years, a total of $992,601 has benefited the Wisconsin Conference through this department.

Naftanaila concluded his report by sharing what God is doing through the Youth Department. He shared that club ministries is on the rise and that over two hundred young people attended the 2022 Wisconsin Conference Pathfinder Fair. In addition, many Wisconsin Pathfinders attended the recent Lake Union Camporee. The department also made history by hosting the first Master Guide Camporee in the conference. Naftanaila reported that the Youth Department has also seen growth in Public Campus Ministries with local chapters being present on four public campuses with interest in several other areas. Finishing off the report, he shared that the Wisconsin Summer Camp program continues to build their program and that they are faithfully bringing kids to Christ with hundreds of campers making decisions for Jesus this past summer.

A link to view the full report booklet is available HERE.

Upon finishing his report, President Naftanaila called for the department directors, ministry coordinators, members of the Executive Committee and other functioning committees across the conference to stand for special recognition of the work they do. He said, “We do not work alone, we work together.” He also expressed gratitude for all the Wisconsin churches and what they do. He gave special recognition to Brian Stephan, conference executive secretary/treasurer by saying, “If wisdom is at the conference, it is here,” referring to Stephan.

After the delegates voted to accept the President’s Report, Ken Denslow, Lake Union president came forward to recognize all the Nominating Committee members and said that we can “always move forward knowing you’ve asked God to guide and bless.” Denslow called Becky Ziesmer, committee secretary, to share the recommendations from the Nominating Committee for vote by the delegates. All six names recommended by the committee were elected by the delegates to serve for the 2022-2026 quadrennium. The names of those elected were, Titus Naftanaila, president; Brian Stephan; executive secretary/treasurer; Adam Case, ministerial director; Sue Nelson, superintendent for education; Zack Payne, youth director; Bill Ochs, planned giving and trust services director.

Upon being elected Wisconsin Conference President, Titus Naftanaila said, “I am humbled. My wife and I are honored to respond to God’s call and this responsibility. We pray and hope that God won’t be disappointed and the great Conference of Wisconsin will be satisfied. It is not about me; it is about a team. We are here, together, by God’s grace. We are called for such a time. If everyone responds to God’s call, ‘Here I am; send me,’ we will have wonderful things happening in Wisconsin.”

Newly re-elected Executive Secretary/Treasurer, Brian Stephan, next gave a report from the Constitution and Bylaws Committee. The committee proposed a change allowing the possibility of conducting the constituency session online in the event of extenuating circumstances, as determined by the Executive Committee. Delegates voted to approve this change. He also reported on the disbanding of the Emmanuel Seventh-day Adventist Church, which the delegates voted to remove.

Stephan next gave the membership report showing that although there has been some decline in membership numbers in the last few years, the year 2021 was a banner year with the highest membership in the last 9 years. With the five hundred and ninety-nine baptisms in the last four years, and accounting for professions of faith, transfers, and removals, the Wisconsin Conference current membership is 7,681.

The delegates voted to continue the business through lunch and Stephan continued by sharing the Financial Report. He praised God for how He has blessed the Wisconsin Conference even through COVID. In 2019, the conference had a tithe decrease heading into COVID, but multiple blessings brought the conference through in an even better position than they were before. These blessings included 1) An increase in tithe over the last 2 years, which was seen across the North American Division; 2) The conference was able to qualify for the government PPP loans to help cover employee payroll; and 3) Ability to pay off the revolving fund debt to the Lake Union. He said, “God still has a work for this church to do. God is preparing us for whatever the future will bring.”

Stephan went on to share that the conference net assets have grown exponentially in the last 4 years and that they are working toward having the required working capital. He stated that, “because of God’s blessings, our income has been higher than our expenses the last 2 years and, we are able to cover payroll and fund ministries as needed, carefully.” Stephan continued the report by explaining how the retained tithe and Wisconsin Budget monies are distributed as well as thanking the members for their continued support of the work of the church. He also shared the Corporation Report and how the Plant Fund, Annuity Fund and Endowment Fund have all been holding steady over the last 4 years. The delegates voted to accept the Financial Report.

Stephan then talked about what he called “another miracle from the Lord” when earlier this year, a large maturity came in that benefited the conference, Wisconsin Academy and Camp Wakonda. He concluded by saying that “no matter what comes, God will continue to bless us in Wisconsin.”

Next on the agenda was the Auditor’s Report which was given by Joseph Njau, auditor from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Njau stated that he had witnessed the work of the Lord in the last 4 years and that it is a blessing to have Brian Stephan as the leader of Wisconsin’s team and that he is thankful for each team member in the treasury department. He was pleased to give a “clean, unmodified opinion” of the financial statements and congratulated the team on a job well done.

Brian Stephan finished his reports by saying that the auditor gave Wisconsin Academy a “clean opinion” of their financial statement. The delegates voted to accept both auditor’s statements.

Following the financial reports, Ken Smith, interim principal for Wisconsin Academy gave his report. He stated that the first quarter of the school year is going very well with God’s blessing, and that they are continuing many of the well known traditions on campus. He feels that God has blessed them with good students that especially appreciate spiritual things. He says that much of the success of the academy is due to the great group of faculty and staff that work well together and support one another. Smith laid out his dreams for Wisconsin Academy moving forward which include improving the physical plant, such as renovating the quonset hut and remodeling the shop building, as well as enhancing the curriculum, especially focusing on upgrading the computer, art, tech ed. and music departments. A list of ongoing development projects is available on the Wisconsin Academy website: wisacad.org. He said that they want to provide enough classes to meet student need and also shared that they want to get out more and visit the conference schools.

The final report of the day was given by Titus Naftanaila who shared the strategic plan for the Wisconsin Conference over the next 4 years. The theme: I Will Go, the Vision: Advancing the Adventist mission in Wisconsin, along with the Mission to develop a culture of transformation and intergenerational discipleship whereby Jesus is multiplied in the life of every member set the Strategic Focus for the 2022-2026 term. The 5 areas of focus he presented were: 1) Revitalization and Discipleship; 2) Leadership Development; 3) Educational Excellence: Mentorship, Growth, and Service; 4) Wakonda: Wisconsin Conference Youth Evangelism and 5) Proclamation Evangelism and Community Involvement. A full copy of the Strategic Plan for 2022-2026 is available HERE.

In conclusion, Naftanaila presented a plan for making needed renovations at Camp Wakonda, the conference youth camp. “Great work has been done in the past by those who came before us”, stated Naftanaila. “We have to continue the work.” He went on to share plans for several projects including renovating the current bathrooms, building permanent structures to replace the division tents, rebuilding the medical/store building and making repairs and upkeep on current cabins. Brian Stephan shared that the large maturity that came in gave $322,000 to Camp Wakonda. Stephan then gave a challenge to the Wisconsin constituents: A dollar for dollar matching program, using this money. Every dollar donated toward Wakonda projects will have double the impact! He said that if Wisconsin members can match this amount, the camp could have a total of nearly $650,000 which he said would enable them to accomplish most of the mentioned projects. He went on to share that Maranatha is coming to Camp Wakonda next spring to work on several projects and that the conference needs to have the materials in place by that time. There was a strong spirit of unity amongst the constituency session members in support of Wakonda.

Titus Naftanaila adjourned the session with a word of thankfulness to everyone and their dedication to God’s work. The closing benediction was given by Ken Denslow.


Laurella Case, Communication Coordinator


Pictures by Felicia Tonga, Assistant Communication Director for the Lake Union Herald

Pictures by Laurella Case, Communication Coordinator