27 Nov 2009, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States…Mark A. Kellner, News Editor, Adventist Review/ANN
James A. Cress, 60, Ministerial Secretary for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists since 1992, died on the evening of November 26, 2009 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
According to a family statement, Cress succumbed to “complications arising from a rare pathogen believed to have been contracted in the course of his travels. Upon his return from the last of his itineraries, the infection worsened. Despite the very best medical care and a valiant struggle, consistent with Cress's energetic approach to Christian service, he succumbed rapidly.”
Cress always considered himself a “pastor on loan” to the world church headquarters, where he led out in training, encouragement and mentoring of pastors, elders, deacons and deaconesses around the world. His position saw him travel to many countries around the globe, holding seminars, preaching sermons and working with local leaders and pastors to promote excellence in ministry.
Jan Paulsen, president of the world Seventh-day Adventist Church, said, “We are devastated at this news, realizing the depth of service we all engage in, service that presents a possible challenge to our health and to our families. Let us keep his wife Sharon in your prayers. This is a tremendous loss to her, as well as to the church.”
Cress was the author of several books, including Common Sense Ministry, More Common Sense Ministry, and You Can Keep Them If You Care, and hundreds of articles for Ministry magazine, of which he was publisher. In that role, Cress continued and strengthened fund-raising efforts to send copies of Ministry to pastors outside of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as a way of building bridges between Adventists and other faith communities. This also led to the annual PREACH seminar, which under Cress' leadership expanded to global satellite, cable TV and Internet broadcasts, reaching 25,000 pastors each year with continuing education in homiletics.
“We are all shocked by this unexpected news.” said Gerald Karst, a general vice president of the world church who also advised the Ministerial Association, of which Cress served as secretary. “We have lost a colleague and a friend whose commitment to the Lord and to the Church was total. His passing leaves large shoes to be filled. He lived life to the full. He viewed life through positive eyes.”
Cress graduated from Southern Missionary College with a bachelor's degree in Theology and received a Master of Divinity degree from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He had previously served as a pastor evangelist and ministerial secretary in the Mid-America region of the United States before joining the world headquarters team.
Cress' wife, Sharon, who survives, is an associate secretary of the Ministerial Association and oversees Shepherdess International, a ministry to pastors' spouses and children. She has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a Bible worker, associate pastor, and seminary leader.
Cress is survived by a brother, John C. Cress, of College Place, Washington, an Adventist pastor who serves with Adventist Health Care. A third brother, David Cress, who had been president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, died in an airplane crash in December of 2004.
A memorial service is anticipated for December 5 at 4 p.m. at Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.