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Adventist Church in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay moves toward self-administration

Goal to reach 'full potential' for growth, church leaders say

The Austral region of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, covering the countries of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, is moving to split into three individual sections of church leadership.

The arrangement would allow each of the three countries to better reach their full potential for growth, church leaders said.

"When you have three different countries under one administration, although you may try to be equally supportive to all three, it is difficult to do it because of customs and distance," said Magdiel Perez Shulz, assistant to the president of the church in South America.

Adventist church membership in Argentina is over 60,000, Paraguay has a little more than 14,000 members and Uruguay has nearly 7,000.

Uruguay has the highest percentage of non-Catholic religions between the three countries at just over 50 percent. Both Argentina and Paraguay are roughly 90 percent Catholic. Argentina is the largest country, followed by Paraguay. Uruguay is the second smallest country on the continent, just ahead of Suriname and slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Washington.

The Austral Union is currently the only church region in South America not organized by countries.

The official reorganization will be voted on during year-end world church business meetings this October, authorizing the South American region to launch the two additional sections, called unions, in January 2010.

Delegates at the world church business meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, will take a final vote to approve the new organization structure in June 2010.