In the Seventh-day Adventist organizational chart division presidents have lines of authority that go up and down. These individuals are both vice presidents of the General Conference who report to the General Conference president, and the chief operating officer of their division reporting to the Division’s Executive Committee.
Paul Ratsara, the president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division and General Conference vice president this week found himself caught between the two. When the Division Executive Committee issued an implicit vote of no confidence in his leadership, Ratsara offered his resignation only to have the President of the General Conference step in and suggest that he sleep on that decision. Wilson also asked the Executive Committee to rescind a previously-voted action to conduct a forensic investigation of Ratsara's doctoral degree. Wilson reminded the committee that election of a new president would have to await approval of the General Conference Executive Committee at its Annual Council Session in October.
Wilson’s action puts everyone in a difficult position. If Ratsara retains his position, he is forced to work with people who have no confidence in his leadership and want him out. If he leaves, the Division Executive Committee can nominate someone as his replacement, but that nomination must wait for approval from the General Conference. It puts the Division at odds with the General Conference president. No one wins in this scenario.
In the not so distant past the people of Southern Africa told the General Conference brethren to mind their own business when the GC tried to force the merging of local conferences.
Forcing the retention of Ratsara turns back the clock to the days when the General Conference sent administrators from the United States to run mission conferences. Election of local leaders around the world was a major step forward for the church. The Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division should have the right to choose their own leader without interference from the General Conference.
Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.
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