Erton Köhler and Paul Douglas were elected to new terms as General Conference (GC) secretary and GC treasurer, respectively, during the Tuesday morning business meeting at the 2022 GC Session. Köhler received a 96.1% approval vote, and Douglas received 97.4%.
Guillermo Biaggi (incumbent), Abner De Los Santos (incumbent), Geoffrey Mbwana (incumbent), Thomas Lemon (incumbent), Artur Stele (incumbent), Audrey Andersson, and Maurice Valentine were collectively voted in as GC general vice presidents with a 96.7% approval vote. Andersson, executive secretary for the Trans-European Division, and Valentine, vice president of the North American Division (NAD) and president of Adventist Media Ministries, will fill the vacant seat left by Ella Simmons.
Simmons is retiring after serving as a GC general vice president for 17 years. She was the first woman to hold the position. Tracie Mafileo, North New Zealand Conference delegate, took the floor to acknowledge and affirm Simmons’s leadership, to which Simmons received a standing ovation from delegates and members of GC leadership.
Nomination Report Debate
Some delegates questioned the nominations for GC leadership positions during the Tuesday night business meeting. Jonathan Zirkle, attorney and GC delegate, was the first to voice a concern after the nominees for departmental directors were announced. After being sent to speak with the nominating committee chairperson, Zirkle returned to speak to the floor again and referenced the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department.
Parliamentarian and GC associate general counsel Todd McFarland had previously stated that under GC rules, names should not be debated. Proper protocol for objecting to a nomination requires a request or motion for the whole report to be referred back to the nominating committee. Chairman and GC Undersecretary Hensley Moorooven reinforced this rule after Zirkle referenced the department but allowed Zirkle to continue speaking under the agreement that he would not make any further references.
“I would just ask this body to think very, very carefully about the challenges that we are facing today and the challenges that divide us,” Zirkle said. “And I think we need to consider, very strongly, the possibility of rejecting this panel, even if it’s only because of one or two names on the panel, and if the nominating committee needs to go back and do its work and get us people who will respect our traditional Adventist values.”
Ganoune Diop has served as director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department since 2015 and previously was also the church’s liaison to the United Nations. Zirkle’s concerns echo statements written by some church members online and on social media taking issue with Diop’s interfaith work.
Central States Conference Delegate Debbie Jackson requested for the nominating committee to review more female candidates.
“May I just make the observation that except for this last group that was presented (departmental directors), there was only one woman in each of the other groups,” Jackson said. “I am requesting that the nominating committee look at females that are qualified—and I’m sure there are several of those in the church—for some of these positions.”
Nina Myrdal, East Norway Conference delegate, had asked Moorooven previously if the nominating committee was guided by principles of gender diversity and years served in office. Returning to speak again after Jackson’s request, Myrdal was encouraged by Moorooven to speak with the nominating committee chairperson. Jackson was instructed to do the same shortly after. Myrdal returned to the mic a third time to make a motion for the list of nominees to be referred back to the nominating committee.
Delegates voted the motion down by 62.5%. The nominations for departmental directors were then passed by 83.7%
See below for a list of GC leadership positions confirmed on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.
Women Conference Presidents
Delegates had previously discussed the topic of women in leadership positions during the afternoon and night business meetings.
A Church Manual amendment titled “Pastor and Other Church Employees” was designed to explain the role of conference leadership, according to the session agenda. The description for a conference president was rewritten and contained the following excerpt:
“Conference President—The conference president should be an ordained pastor of experience. He stands at the head of the gospel ministry in the conference and is the chief elder, or overseer, of all the churches.”
To make the position description gender-inclusive, Valérie Ballieux, Franco-Belgian Union Conference delegate, requested to amend the text to the following: “The conference president should be an ordained or a commissioned pastor with experience.”
“We often forget to see Ellen White as a woman . . . with a leading position,” Ballieux said. “It’s not a question of ordination, but as Elder Wilson told us yesterday and the day before, to be involved—to get totally involved.”
Anthony Bosman, GC delegate and professor at Andrews University, spoke in favor of using gender-neutral language in the description of a conference president.
“This morning, we recognized the leadership of Dr. Simmons as the first female vice president of the General Conference,” Bosman said. “When we acknowledged her, all of us stood in applause because we recognized that God worked through her and put her in that position for such a time as this. If we can recognize that God can appoint a woman to be a vice president of the General Conference, can’t we recognize that perhaps he might call a woman to be president of a conference?”
Bosman had also acknowledged the leadership of Andrews University President Andrea Luxton and mentioned the vote in favor for Andersson becoming a GC general vice president made earlier that morning.
Emmanuel Dike, West Africa Division delegate, spoke for keeping the language of the amended conference president description according to the session agenda, citing 1 Timothy 3:1–2: “This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (KJV).
“The Bible is clear [about] the role the pastor will play and who should be ordained,” Dike said. “I think that as a church, we must stick to the Bible, and we must stick to the counsel of the spirit of prophecy. . . . When it comes to ordination and when it comes to the assignment of being a bishop or being a pastor, you must respect the teachings of the Bible and the guidelines that the Bible has to give.”
In addition to making changes to the conference pastor description, the amendment added descriptions for conference secretary and conference treasurer positions. The conference secretary would be recognized as an executive officer and should have ministerial and denominational experience. The conference treasurer would also be recognized as an executive officer and should have appropriate finance-related experience, according to the session agenda.
Other concerns voiced by delegates include the necessity for conference secretaries to have ministerial experience and having more defined roles for conference secretaries and treasurers. The proposed amendment was referred back to the Church Manual committee for review.
GC Leadership Positions Confirmed on June 7, 2022
Secretariat: 98.1% approval, 1,647 total votes received
– Moise J. F. Hensley Moorooven, undersecretary (incumbent)
– Gerson Santos, associate secretary (incumbent)
– Claude Richli, associate secretary (incumbent)
– Gary Krause, associate secretary, Adventist Mission (incumbent)
– Elbert Kuhn, associate secretary, Adventist Volunteer Service (incumbent)
– Karen Porter, associate secretary, International Personnel Resources and Services (IPRS) (incumbent)
– Saw Samuel, associate secretary
Position previously held: president, Southern Asia-Pacific Division
Treasury: 98.1% approval, 1,647 total votes received
– J Raymond Wahlen II, undertreasurer (incumbent)
– Timothy Hiroki Aka, associate treasurer, Investments (incumbent)
– George Egwakhe, associate treasurer (incumbent)
– German Lust, associate treasurer, IPRS (incumbent)
– Daisy Orion, associate treasurer (incumbent)
– Josue Pierre, associate treasurer
Position previously held: associate general counsel, GC
– Richard Stephenson, associate treasurer, Tech Operations and Strategy
Position previously held: director, IT Services, NAD
Departmental Directors: 83.7% approval, 1,566 total votes received
– Ivan Omana, director, Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries (ACM)
Position previously held: associate director, ACM, GC
– Williams Costa, director, Communication (incumbent)
– Orathai Chureson, director, Children’s Ministries
Position previously held: director, Adventist Children’s Ministries, Southern Asia-Pacific Division
– Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director, Education (incumbent)
– Wilbert Oliver, director, Family Ministries (incumbent)
– Elaine Oliver, associate director, Family Ministries (incumbent)
– Peter Landless, director, Health Ministries (incumbent)
– Ramon Canals, ministerial secretary, Ministerial Association
Position previously held: director, Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, GC
– Aurora Canals, associate secretary, Pastoral Spouses and Family
Position previously held: undertreasurer, Chesapeake Conference, NAD
– Ganoune Diop, director, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (incumbent)
– Almir Marroni, director, Publishing Ministries (incumbent)
– James Howard, director, Sabbath School and Personal Ministries (SSPM)
Position previously held: associate director, SSPM, GC
– Dennis Carlson, director, Planned Giving and Trust Services (incumbent)
– Marcos Faiock Bomfim, director, Stewardship Ministries (incumbent)
– Heather-Dawn Small, director, Women’s Ministries (incumbent)
– Busi Khumalo, director, Youth Ministries
Position previously held: director, Adventist Youth Ministries, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division
The 2022 General Conference Session continues on Wednesday, June 8.
Megan Yoshioka is a reporter for Spectrum and a recent mass communication-writing/editing graduate from Southern Adventist University. She has lived in California, Hawaii, and Tennessee.
Title image: GC vice presidents elected to new terms are presented to the session on June 7, 2022 (Art Brondo / North American Division)
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