North Conference

By Radivoj Vladisavljevic

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Radivoj Vladisavljevic

First Published: January 22, 2021

The North Conference of the South-East European Union Conference was established 1992 and comprises the territory of the Vojvodina Province of Serbia. Prior to 1992 this province had been part of the North Yugoslavian Conference (established in 1953).

Statistics (June 30, 2019): Churches, 88; membership, 3,292; population, 1,916,596. On the territory of Vojvodina, there is one Adventist on every 582 non-Adventists.

Early History

The Adventist church, from its very beginnings, was developed through the ministry of missionaries and colporteurs, who themselves were members of the local churches.

The first church leader to visit this region was Ludwig Richard Conradi (1856-1939). At that time, Vojvodina was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Pastor Conradi visited the city of Zrenjanin (which was then called Veliki Bečkerek) in Vojvodina on June 19, 1893.1 The first missionary in the region was John Huenergardt (1875-1955), who was sent to the town of Cluj-Napoca, in present-day Romania, in 1898.2 The first Sabbath School was founded in the village of Mokrin in 1900 or 1901.3 The first minister who worked in Zrenjanin was Petar Todor, beginning in 1904.4 Among the many colporteurs, their leader Živan Krdžalić (born in Mokrin) made the greatest contribution.5 The first organized church was founded on July 12, 1905, in the village of Kumane.6 The headquarters for the region was first established in 1911, in the city of Novi Sad, under the official name Adriatic Mission, with Robert Šilinger (Schillinger) as its first president.7 This mission was a part of the Hungarian Conference, established in 1907.8 Pastor Albin Močnik, from Trbovlje, Slovenia, also had a great influence on the development of the church in this area.9

In 1912 the Danube Union Conference was established, and the churches in the Vojvodina province became the Tisa-Sava Mission.10 In 1915 the name was changed to the Tisa Mission.11 After World War I ended, the Yugoslav Mission was established, headquartered in Novi Sad. R. Schillinger, A. Mocnik, M. Kalucerski, Dz. Hrubenja, and L. Bauer served as the executive committee.12 In 1925 the Yugoslavian Union Mission was organized. The headquarters remained in Novi Sad, and the superintendent was A. Mocnik.13 In this union, the Vojvodina province was identified as the Vojvodina Mission.14 The name changed again in 1928 to Sub-Tisan Mission.15 In order to maintain their everyday activities, the state representative advised the church in Novi Sad to change its name to the Samaritan Society and to register its properties under the name of The Močnic Society and Friends.16 In 1929 the churches in Vojvodina Province became part of the Danube Conference of the Yugoslavian Union Conference.17

At the end of World War II, in 1945, communication between the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and the churches in the Yugoslavian Union Conference was lost.18 The churches in Vojvodina Province were renamed the North Yugoslavia Conference,19 part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Yugoslavian Union Conference in the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. A period of stable development began which lasted until the civil war and the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Civil War Years

In 1992 the South-East European Union Conference was formed, with the churches of the Vojvodina province making up the North Conference.20

At the beginning of the 1990s the world had changed. In Europe, the Berlin Wall had fallen, and in the world, the Cold war had ended. At the same time, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was divided following the horrifying civil war, which continued with varying intensity throughout the 1990s. The country was poverty-stricken and devastated due to economic sanctions which the international community imposed on the Republic of Serbia. Manufacturing stopped, the unemployment rate skyrocketed, and there was a shortage of all kinds of goods and energy sources, such as electricity and fuel for transportation. The national currency, the dinar, registered the highest inflation rate in the world, and worker’s salaries also were the lowest in the world.

In this decade, despite the social upheaval, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North Conference recorded its highest statistical and spiritual growth. As never before, a growing interest in spirituality and the teachings of the Bible emerged among people of all ages and social backgrounds. The period of official atheism, which had lasted around forty years during the time of socialism, had ended. The civil war, poverty, fear, and hopelessness propelled people to turn to the church and God for the solution.

A hunger for spiritual knowledge could be felt during that time. There was little or no prejudice regarding the active churches. At the time, the Adventist church had a well-established method of sharing the teachings of the Bible through evangelistic seminars inside church buildings every evening for up to five to seven days. This model was partially modified due to the change in circumstances, so the evangelistic meetings were no longer held in church buildings but public halls.

Posters invited people to these meetings. It was enough to put posters announcing lectures about the Holy Scriptures in town, and the public hall would be filled with eager listeners of various ages that didn’t belong to any denomination. The format of the presentation was simple, just like ordinary school. The lecturers were ministers and laypeople who had a gift of public speaking. Whenever possible, health workers shared health-based lectures based on the teachings of the Bible and contemporary science. Usually, at the end of the meetings, there was a Q&A time. On many occasions, the meetings were interrupted by power outages due to restrictions by electrical power plants. In cases such as these, people would just light up candles and continue where they left off. Sometimes the meeting would begin with candle lights and end with electrical light. Attendees who expressed interest were invited to continue with separate Bible studies once a week.

Ministers had the opportunity to preach on local radio and TV stations, free of charge or for a small fee for booking the airtime. The satellite evangelistic meetings held by Mark Finley, which were broadcasted globally via satellite TV stations, were a very special event.21 For that occasion, special equipment was bought, and the program was watched in 85 places in the North Conference. The result was an increase in the number of baptisms in the North Conference. A report given to the convocation for the period from 1995 until 1998 showed that on average each year 247 people were baptized.22

After a few years of tolerance, persecution and a spirit of intolerance erupted. Every day, articles depicting the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a dangerous sect that had infiltrated the country from the West to destroy the spirituality of the dominant national church during times of war were published in the media. Offensive graffiti and threatening messages were written on the buildings of Adventist churches. Windows and doors on church buildings were shattered, inventory was broken, and organized groups of bullies interrupted evangelistic meetings in public halls. Pastors and church members faced physical assaults.23

During the war local Adventist churches organized humanitarian activities on a daily basis. Every day, poor people would come to the church doors asking for food and medicine. In many cases they were war migrants fleeing war zones. With great effort, food was gathered and transported to people in Sarajevo, who lived under siege for nearly four years.24

During that time, social life was developing face-to-face due to a lack of social network services and cell phones. Sabbaths (Saturdays) were devoted to worship and spending time with fellow church members and visitors, from the oldest ones to the youngest. Occasionally, churches located close to each other met to share meals, practice singing, study the Bible, enjoy walking in nature, or just spend time in each other’s company. Each spring, regional convocations for young people were organized, consisting of Bible lectures and talks about certain topics. In the autumn, regional meetings were held for members of all ages.25

From time to time, picnics in nature were organized, where young people would play board games, and food was prepared and shared. On such occasions, around five hundred people would show up. Churches organized sports events for young people, such as volleyball, soccer, ping pong, and basketball games in rented halls.

The crisis caused by the division in the churches in Hungary incited a few hundred North Conference church members of Hungarian nationality to follow the steps of a group that separated from the official church.26 Meanwhile, an erroneous interpretation of the concept of perfection and the nature of Christ during His incarnation, together with the significance of the last generation in the plan of salvation, stirred controversy. The Trans-European Division organized meetings to address these issues. These meetings helped preserve the unity of the church in the North Conference and avoid division, which posed a serious threat as a consequence of the division in Hungary.

Church Buildings

With the growth in membership there was a need for new houses of prayer, through the reconstruction of old churches, maintaining of existing ones, and the building of new places of worship. The construction of a new main church in Novi Sad took seven years, and the multifunctional building with a church was dedicated on May12, 2001.27 Church reports show that, from 1992 to 1999, 15 new churches, thorough reconstruction or construction, were brought into use.28

The Srem-Baranja Region, located along the border of the North Conference, which encompassed ten churches, was looked after by nine ministers from the North Conference during the war years. Their work was especially dangerous and difficult because of the devastation the region of the Srem-Baranja region experienced.29

The End of the War and Life in Peace

At the beginning of the new millennium, post-war suffering had ended. The economy was slowly recovering, and the employment rate was rising along with the living standard of the population. War migrants, along with displaced persons, were slowly emigrating to distant countries all over the world. People started renovating their houses, furniture, and clothing. Serbia became a candidate for joining the European Union.

The reports given at convocations show that the average number of people baptized per year decreased to about fifty.30 With church members migrating and those who were spiritually weak leaving the church, the numbers decreased further.31 In the next 20 years, the church administration worked to pay back all debts from the war period and built 11 new churches.32

The church administration had started producing Sabbath school materials in the languages of the national minorities of Vojvodina, such as the Hungarian, Romanian, and Slovakian languages. The conference began to publish a bi-monthly news magazine, Severac (Northerner). It contained information about events and future plans of the conference, together with reports about interesting faith experiences around the globe. For ministers and local church leaders, the church published a magazine called Pastir (Shepherd), featuring materials and new ideas. Both of these magazines were available in electronic and printed form.33

The church mission focus changed. After the main church in Novi Sad was dedicated in the spring of 2001, the North Conference organized a network of evangelistic meetings in the autumn and winter of that year. Many churches from the conference and the union conference watched. The lecturer was Pastor Radiša Antić, with Pastor Miroslav Pujić as technical support.34 The North Conference organized this series based on the experience with previous satellite evangelistic meetings. The churches in the Conference had joined in the broadcasted evangelistic meetings of Dwight Nelson in 1998,35 Doug Batchelor in 1999, and Geoff Youlden in 2000.

The union conference made online radio and TV programs available to church members. The Više od života (More than Life) program had especially interesting online content. Evangelistic meetings and worship services are now regularly streamed online. Through online broadcasts a large number of new lecturers and topics are reaching many people who have never visited a church or any seminars in a public place. Online social networks played an increasing role, and people who never visited a church but are well versed in the Bible are starting to reach out. The conference appointed it first web-pastor.36 The ministering style of young pastors has changed; they do not visit church members as much but are more engaged in organizing church activities and preaching.

The Adventist High School in Novi Sad

The North Conference gifted a building in Novi Sad, Temerinska 28, to the union conference to build a high school, Živorad Janković.37 At the beginning of the school year in 2003, the high school moved from Belgrade theological seminary to Novi Sad. The first high school principal was Pastor Igor Bosnić, and the deans of boys and girls were a married couple, Mirela and Branko Lukić.

European Youth Congress in Novi Sad

The Trans-European Division organized a congress for Adventist youth from across its countries in Novi Sad on August 9, 2013.38 As well as lectures and seminars, attendees participated in many community service activities and missionary projects in the surrounding community.

Different Types of Church Missionary Activities

In Novi Sad, Subotica, and Sremska Mitrovica, the Biblical Open University organizes special public meetings.39 The lecturers talking about the Bible are mostly professors from the Belgrade Theological Seminary. A Bible Conference covering this part of Europe was held in Novi Sad, focusing on a number of topics including the Trinity. Young people organized projects and meetings under the names Relay and Unzip. Choirs and children’s choirs are continuously active. Health workers manage health clubs in almost every place where a pastor resides. Twenty four libraries are active across the Conference. The Bible Correspondence School has courses available in Serbian, Hungarian, Slovakian, and Romanian.40

Even though the circumstances have completely changed, the church administration continually supports the colporteur work (literature evangelists). In some parts of the conference, every home has received a copy of the book Steps to Christ. Individuals sharing spiritual literature from the Adventist publishing house online are also supported. The Association of Adventist Business people under the name ASI (Adventist Laymen’s Services & Industries) financed the selling of The Great Controversy and a few other books in stores and newsstands.41 Global Mission projects are regularly conducted in different places around the conference. The General Conference Global Mission granted a sponsorship of one person to work in a place where there is no church or church members.

Presidents

Stevan Štrangar,42 Nikola Slankamenac (1945-1953); Antonije Kanački (1953-1958); Radomir Dedić (1958-1962); Antonije Kanački (1962-1968); Stevan Sabo (1968-1983); Pavle Borović (1983-1986); Zdravko Šorđan (1986-1992); Sergije Maletić (1992-1995); Radivoj Vladisavljević (1995-2003); Vencel Šili (2003-2004); Stevan Bodonji (2004-2009); Dragan Ćirić (2009-2019); Robert Erdeg (2019-present).43

Sources

Minutes from the Main Church Board of the South-East European Union Conference, Jun 17, 1996, No. 131, Box 01, Folder SEEUC docs. South-East European Union Conference (SEEUC) Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Minutes from the Main Church Board of the South-East European Union Conference, March 19, 1998, No. 185, Box 01, Folder SEEUC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Minutes from the Main Church Board of the South-East European Union Conference, November 04, 1996, No. 141, Box 01, Folder SEEUC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Report given to the Convocation of the SEEUC, May 06–08, 2004. Box 01, Folder SEEUC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 14–16, 1998, 14, Box 01, Folder NC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 24–26, 2001. 6, Box 01, Folder NC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 26–28, 2011. 3, Box 01, Folder NC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 28–30, 2015. 7, Box 01, Folder NC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 30–April 01, 2019. 4, Box 01, Folder NC docs. SEEUC Archive, Belgrade, Serbia.

Šušljić, Milan. Bićete mi svedoci (You will be my witnesses). Beograd: Preporod, 2004.

Notes

  1. Milan Šušljić, Bićete mi svedoci (Beograd: Preporod, 2004), 107.

  2. Ibid., 60.

  3. Ibid., 114.

  4. Ibid., 125.

  5. Ibid., 250.

  6. Ibid., 118.

  7. Ibid., 151. See also “Adriatic Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1910), 104.

  8. Ibid., 141. See also “Hungarian Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1910), 102.

  9. Ibid., 133.

  10. Ibid., 152.

  11. Ibid., 181.

  12. Ibid., 190. See also “Jugoslavia Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1921), 101.

  13. “Jugoslavia Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926), 134.

  14. Ibid., 271.

  15. Ibid., 338.

  16. Ibid., 340.

  17. Ibid., 341.

  18. “Jugoslavia Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947), 202.

  19. Ibid., 360.

  20. Ibid., 435.

  21. Minutes from the Main Church Board of the South-East European Union Conference, June 17, 1996, No. 131, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  22. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 14–16, 1998, 14, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  23. Ibid.. 3, 4.

  24. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 24–26, 2001, 6, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  25. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 14–16, 1998, 10, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  26. Minutes from the Main Church Board of the South-East European Union Conference, November 4, 1996, No. 141, personal collection of Radivoj Vladisavljević.

  27. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 24–26, 2001, 5, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  28. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 14–16, 1998, 7, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  29. Ibid., 8.

  30. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 30–April 01, 2019, 4, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  31. Ibid., 4.

  32. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 26–28, 2011, 3, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  33. Ibid., 9.

  34. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 24–26, 2001, 5, 8–10, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  35. Minutes from the Main Church Board of the South-East European Union Conference, March 19, 1998, No. 185, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  36. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 26–28, 2011, 5, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  37. Report given to the Convocation of the SEEUC, May 06–08, 2004, Box 01, Folder SEEUC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  38. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 28–30, 2015, 7, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  39. Ibid., 5.

  40. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 26–28, 2011, 7, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  41. Report given to the Convocation of the North Conference, May 28–30, 2015, 5, Box 01, Folder NC docs, SEEUC Archive.

  42. The identity of the first president of the North Conference is not reliably known. Per the recollection of Nada Štrangar (Stevan Štrangar’s daughter), Milanka Stajšić, and Mirko Vladisavljević, Stevan Štrangar is listed, though the beginning and end dates of his leadership are not known.

  43. This data is drawn from previously quoted reports given to the convocations of the North Conference, with the addition of the following source: Milan Šušljić, Bićete mi svedoci (Beograd: Preporod, 2004), 107.

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Vladisavljevic, Radivoj. "North Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 22, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7CPD.

Vladisavljevic, Radivoj. "North Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 22, 2021. Date of access June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7CPD.

Vladisavljevic, Radivoj (2021, January 22). North Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=7CPD.