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Age, Ethnicity and the New General Conference Vice Presidents

The nine vice presidents approved by delegates yesterday represented a pragmatic mix of continuity and change. Five of the outgoing vice presidential team were returned for another five years; four were new.

The five re-elected were Lowell Cooper, Armando Miranda, Pardon Mwansa, Michael Ryan and Ella Simmons.

The four new members were Delbert Baker from Oakwood University, Geoffrey Mbwana from the East-Central Africa Division, Benjamin Schoun from Adventist World Radio and Artur Stele from the Euro-Asia Division.

New VPs: Delbert Baker, Geoffrey Mbwana, Benjamin Schoun, Artur Stele.

Mbwana’s promotion gives Africa an additional representative at this level of Adventist government, whose job is mainly to manage the institutions of the General Conference. Baker’s election provides another African American. So with two African vice presidents, Mwansa and Mbwana, and two African Americans, Simmons and Baker, the black constituency did well yesterday.

However there is only one Hispanic, Miranda, and no Asian, though G. T. Ng’s appointment as GC secretary that was also announced yesterday provided Asian delegates with some compensation. The most interesting of the newcomers was Artur Stele. He becomes the first Russian to join the vice presidential team.

The various press releases issued yesterday did not deem it necessary to reveal the ages of the vice presidents. However Wikipedia tells us that Baker is 57 and Schoun divulges on his Facebook page that he is 62. With Ted Wilson himself being 60, it is fairly safe to assume that the average age of the church’s newly elected leadership is around 60.

Adventism therefore is still resisting trends in the wider world, where there has been a shift toward choosing younger leaders. Jan Paulsen himself has drawn attention at this conference to Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, who is only 43. Barack Obama was elected at 47. Australia’s new female prime minister, Julia Gillard, is 48. Paulsen suggested that if electorates around the world are trusting younger people with leadership there was no reason why the church could not do so as well.

On the evidence of yesterday, Adventists will have to wait for another session before anything like that happens. It is the case that all churches tend to prefer more aged leaders. Pope Benedict XVI was elected at 78, so the Adventist church is by no means as ancient as some.


Keith Lockhart is co-author of Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream.

Photo: Gerry Chudleigh/ANN

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