The Seventh day Adventist® Church was born out of the Millerite movement of the 1840s when thousands of Christians searched for greater understanding of biblical prophecy. Among these believers was a group in New England that rediscovered the seventh day Sabbath. They chose the name “Seventh day” which refers to the biblical Sabbath, Saturday, ordained by God at Creation. “Adventist” means we’re looking for the return of Jesus Christ.
Shortly after settling on a denominational name in 1860, Seventh-day Adventists began to talk about a worldwide movement. After all, didn’t Christ urge to “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” and didn’t Revelation talk of “the everlasting gospel” to be proclaimed to “them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”? In 1861 it was discovered that at least five in Ireland were practicing Seventh-day Adventists. But how could a group of only a few thousand perform the task of worldwide evangelism? The denomination was officially organized on May 21, 1863, when the movement included some 125 churches and 3,500 members. By 1864 Michael Belina Czechowski, a former Catholic priest, decided to spread the Seventh-day Adventist message throughout Europe. In 1874 the church was ready to send abroad its first official missionary, J. N. Andrews, who left the United States for Switzerland. By the end of the century Seventh-day Adventism had become worldwide in scope.
Today some 10 million Seventh-day Adventists have established themselves in virtually every country of the world. Less than 10 percent of Seventh-day Adventists live in the United States. While ethnically diverse, they remain united over the everlasting gospel, the basic Christian message of salvation through faith in Christ. Unity prevails also over the other central teachings of their Christian heritage.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church consists of over 16 million members worldwide. In the Southern Africa Union Conference the church has more than 122 231 members (as of June 2010). These members worship in churches spread throughout South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and St Helena.
The churches together form administrative units that serve the different geographical sectors of the territory. These are:
- The Cape Conference
- The KwaZuluNatal-Free State Conference
- The Lesotho Conference
- The Namibian Field
- The Trans-Orange Conference
- The Transvaal Conference
- The Swaziland Conference
These six conferences and one field together form the Southern Africa Union Conference (SAU) with its headquarters in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The SAU is one of eight Unions that make up the regional administrative unit of the church called the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) based in Irene, South Africa. The other Unions/Mission Unions are: Zambia and Zimbabwe Union Conferences; and the Angola, Botswana, Indian Ocean, Malawi, and Mozambique Union Missions.
The SID oversees the work of the church in Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Reunion, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Ascension, St. Helena, and Tristan da Cunha Islands. The SID serves as one of 13 divisions that cover the world field, with the headquarters of the church, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.