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Columbia Union Addresses Next Step After President’s Abrupt Retirement

Dave Weigley - 2016 Annual Council

On March 4, the Columbia Union publicly answered questions about its executive leadership vacancy after President Dave Weigley suddenly retired from office on March 1, 2024. The departure itself had been announced just six days before. The update on the union’s website stated that its bylaws “give authority to the union executive committee to elect a new president.” G. Alexander Bryant, the North American Division president, will chair that committee. In response to questions from Spectrum, the union confirmed that the replacement process will officially begin on March 6, 2024.

The selected candidate will not be an interim position. Union bylaws state that a sitting president may choose to be considered for reelection at a future union constituency session. The union’s next session will take place in 2026, but no specific date for that meeting has been set.

Dave Weigley spent nearly two decades as president of the Adventist church stretching from the Mid-Atlantic region to Ohio. He held various church offices for 47 years and helped to lead his union in voting for ordaining women in 2012. In his retirement announcement, Weigley cited a desire to support his wife, Becky, during her fight against cancer. He also acknowledged possible looming legal issues involving an alleged ongoing state investigation of Kettering Health, the Ohio-based healthcare system where he served as board chair until he suddenly stepped down.

“I don’t wish to be a distraction from the mission of the church,” Weigley said. “It’s in the best interest of the Columbia Union for me to retire at this time.”

In December 2022, Spectrum reported on the abrupt retirement of Fred Manchur, CEO of Kettering Health. Weigley then left the board in early 2023. Columbia Union’s executive secretary, Celeste Ryan Blyden, who had joined the board as vice chair a year before, became chair on January 23, 2023. 

Spectrum’s reporting revealed concerns from within Kettering Health that echoed Manchur’s long standing, multistate, multi-hospital reputation among Adventist health care executives for blurring the line between personal and institutional benefit. “In Fred’s mind there is no line between himself and the hospital,” one said. His recruiting touch sometimes went in the other direction to directly benefit his family. Both his son and son-in-law were Kettering Health executives. Under new leadership, both have departed.

Manchur and Weigley have been called “masterminds behind the abuse of charitable funds,” as WHIO-TV reported in March 2023. The two allegedly used hospital money to expense questionable trips and pay the Ohio Conference to move to Kettering. Manchur has also been publicly accused of spending at least $1 million in institutional funds to remodel his home.

Ryan Blyden and treasurer Emmanuel Asiedu now serve as the Columbia Union’s top executives until the presidential vacancy is filled. 

The union’s representation at the April 9-10 Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee remains an open question. “We do not yet know when the selection process will be completed,” the union said. The top global leaders begin premeetings at denominational headquarter in Silver Spring, Maryland, on March 25.

Image: Dave Weigley speaking during the 2016 Annual Council. (Brent Hardinge / ANN)

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