Sandra E. Roberts, the executive secretary of the Southeastern California Conference for the past nine years, has been nominated to be the conference president. The constituency will vote on her nomination at their meeting Oct. 27. If elected, she would be the first woman to be a president of a Seventh-day Adventist conference.
Roberts holds a Doctorate of Ministry degree from Claremont School of Theology as well as a Master of Arts degree in religious education from Andrews University. During her 26 years in the Southeastern California Conference, she has also served as the general manager and summer camp director at Pine Springs Ranch, the chaplain for the Loma Linda Elementary and Junior High, associate pastor of the Corona Church and associate youth director for the conference. She was ordained to the gospel ministry in 2012.
According to Fritz Guy, chair of the SECC nominating committee, current President Gerald D. Penick, Sr. told the committee that he did not want to be considered for re-election during the committee’s first meeting on Sept. 8. The committee met again and completed its work on Sept. 15. A report was posted on the conference website Monday evening, Sept. 16, and was also sent to the constituency meeting delegates.
No further notice of the committee’s work was made public, according to the SECC communications director Enno Mueller, who said the conference planned to wait for the vote of the constituency before making any statements about the change in officers.
Roberts’ nomination comes as the denomination is in the midst of an international discussion of whether or not to ordain women ministers. Last year the constituents of the Southeastern California Conference and the Pacific Union Conference, of which the SECC is a part, voted to proceed with ordination of women. This is significant, because conference presidents are required to be ordained ministers of the gospel. Southeastern California Conference is one of the largest local conferences in North America, with a membership of 70,572 who meet in 160 churches in the Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. It is home to two denominational universities and its largest health care complex.
In another first, the nominating committee tapped Jonathan Park, who has served as a conference vice president for Asian Pacific Ministries, to take Roberts’ place as executive secretary. He is the first Asian-Pacific representative to be selected as one of the top officers of the conference. Elizer Sacey, pastor of the Redlands Filipino Church, has been named to the Asian Pacific Ministries position. The other two vice presidents, George King for Black Ministries and Alberto Ingleton for Hispanic Ministries were re-nominated. Treasurer Verlon Strauss was also re-nominated.
Under the conference’s bylaws, the nominating committee selects its own chair. Fritz Guy was chosen again. He also served as the chair at the previous nominating committee. Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham attended the sessions as an adviser. The nominating committee also drew up a list of 20 members for the executive committee and the eight members of the bylaws committee. Conference bylaws specify representation on both committees to include people from all parts of the conference, male and female, from all of the ethnic churches, and to include someone under 40.
Interestingly, since delegates are chosen to represent churches, their ethnicity is determined by the church they attend. So at this session, one of the members, who had represented a Hispanic church but moved her membership to a mixed congregation, which is considered Anglo, was no longer counted among the Hispanic members.
On Oct. 27, 1,115 delegates will vote on Roberts’ historic nomination.
Bonnie Dwyer is the editor of Spectrum.