Former mission institute director Lester Merklin assumed his new post December 1 as head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Global Center for Adventist Muslim Relations.
The center is one of five Global Mission religious study operations by the church's Office of Adventist Mission established to build bridges of understanding between the Adventist Church and major world religions.
The center consists of Merklin, who will also continue as a faculty member at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Merklin, 61, has served as a pastor and seminary professor in the United States, Belize, Pakistan and the Philippines. Most recently he was the director of the church's Institute of World Mission, which offers training for the church's cross-cultural workers. He holds a master's of divinity from Andrews University and a doctorate in ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
Merklin replaces Jerald Whitehouse, who stepped down as director in June.
"The center has an important role to play in helping Adventists understand Islam," Merklin said. "We are in a unique position to converse with our Muslim friends because of our mutual emphasis on doing God's will, looking for the coming of Christ, expecting a day of judgment, and following scriptural health laws."
Islam is the world's second largest religion with some 1.5 billion believers. As the dominant religion in many countries in the Middle East and Asia, Islam is also experiencing growth in Europe and North America, Merklin said.
"His experience in cross-cultural communication will be an asset in helping church members develop skills to reach the unreached," said Ganoune Diop, director of the Study Centers for the Office of Adventist Mission.
The other four Global Mission religious study centers operated by the Office of Adventist Mission are the World Jewish Friendship Center in Israel, the Buddhist Study Center in Thailand, the Hindu Study Center in India, and the Center for Secular and Postmodern Studies in England.
For more information, visit AdventistMission.org.