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“Conversation Engaged” After Brazilian Church Leaders Mimic U.S.-based “Adventist Health” Identity

Brazil Adventist Health / California Adventist Health

On May 5, the South American Division (SAD) reorganized its handful of healthcare entities and created a new organization, “Adventist Health,” employing the same name and logo as the $6 billion healthcare system headquartered in Northern California. 

“No senior executives” at Adventist Health in the U.S. were contacted by the SAD, or the General Conference (GC), confirmed a denominational leader who requested anonymity due to political concerns.  

The trademark, “Adventist Health,” is owned by the GC.

The new South American healthcare system, headquartered at the denomination’s office in Brazil, displayed a logo that mimicked the brandmark, leaf treatment, and colors of Adventist Health, which has over 30,000 employees working on the West Coast and in Hawaii with “over 440 sites of care, including 28 acute care facilities.”

The SAD and the GC did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In a statement to Spectrum on May 23, Adventist Health (U.S.) stated that it was, “delighted to hear that the [SAD] has recently brought all their healthcare institutions under one group called ‘Adventist Health.’”

In the 1980s, the North American Division, led at the time by Neil Wilson (the current GC president’s father), decentralized their healthcare org driven by concerns about ascending liability. Currently, five healthcare systems remain, each chaired by union presidents, except for Loma Linda University Health, where a GC vice president leads the board. They are currently known as AdventHealth (headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Florida), Adventist Healthcare (headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland), Kettering Health (headquartered in Kettering, Ohio), and Adventist Health (headquartered in Roseville, California).

In Brazil

In May, the SAD reorganization removed six hospitals, three clinics, and two health centers from local union and conference control. The SAD’s “Adventist Health” also takes on the administration of PROASA—Programa Adventista de Saúde, the church’s health insurance plan which is mandatory for denominational employees. PROASA is presided over by the division president—in 2020 it reported total assets of R$69,528,708 ($12.9 million).

When he was president of the SAD, Erton C. Köhler, now GC secretary, took insurance funds from the unions and centralized them into a South American entity aligned with Adventist Risk Management, Inc., headquartered in the United States. The three top leaders of ARM-SA were recently fired by ARM, Inc., after an audit identified “financial irregularities” between it and a “slush fund” mindset at the SAD. 

The May reorganization of the healthcare system in the SAD created new roles for Brazilian division administrators. The treasurer of the Central Brazil Union, Gilnei Abreu, was elected as Adventist Health’s general director (CEO). His previous office is now occupied by Telson Vargas, formerly vice-rector for administration of the Adventist University Center of São Paulo (UNASP). Anderson Erthal, the former SAD associate treasurer, is now Adventist Health’s CFO. His previous position is now occupied by Martin Distler, formerly the CFO of the Adventist Retirement and Assistance Institute (IAJA). Each position was filled by a person with ties to the Brazilian South. 

After this change to Adventist healthcare in the SAD, Marlon Lopes, the treasurer of the division, retired on June 1. The general director of the Casa Publicadora Brasileira (Brazil Publishing House), Edson Erthal de Medeiros was recommended by the SAD executive committee to be the division’s new CFO. He was accepted by the General Conference a few days later. Medeiros is a Brazilian southerner and played a significant role in the centralization of trust funds by the Köhler administration. He, and Anderson Erthal, the CFO of the division’s new healthcare entity, are related. Uilson Garcia, the previous Brazil Publishing House’s financial director, and also a Brazilian southerner, is the org’s new general director.

Spectrum reached out again—this week—to all parties regarding any contact between the two entities about their homonymous relationship. Adventist Health (U.S.) replied that it, “is currently engaged in conversations with the General Conference to find a constructive resolution.” To a question about how the Brazil-based entity got its brandmark’s Encapsulated PostScript file, Adventist Health (U.S.) replied, “we do not know.” 

While the name currently remains the same, this week the leaf treatment and stack logo disappeared from all Adventist Health digital media and signage in Brazil.

About the authors

Alexander Carpenter, editor of Spectrum.

Alexander Carpenter

André Kanasiro

André Kanasiro

André Kanasiro is editor-in-chief and creator of Zelota magazine, where he writes on the Bible, politics and Adventism. He is a biologist and has a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the University of São Paulo. More from André Kanasiro.
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