Ella Simmons walked off the stage in the Georgia Dome after being re-elected vice president of the General Conference and into a reception of the Association of Adventist Women. There she was greeted with a standing ovation and an award as the Woman of the Year.
She arrived late to the reception, because of the election, so she was the one to share the news of her re-election with the crowd. “President Wilson made it clear that he wanted me on his team,” she said after acknowledging that she had not been sure of being returned to her historic post.
First elected in 2005, she is the first female to serve as a general vice president of the world church. Had she not been re-elected there would have been quite an uproar, she admitted in her candid comments.
Although it is taking much too long, she said, the Church is beginning to change.
Her presence and words are helping to bring about that change. Just a few days previously she had taken the floor of the Executive Committee to give an eloquent defense of women during the discussion of the church manual changes. An African delegate had pleaded with the committee not to ordain women deacons. And within seconds she was on her feet. At the microphone she gave an impassioned speech about the importance of women to the church and recognizing their efforts. The Committee voted to proceed with the language allowing the ordination of women deaconesses.
In the video of her life story that was shown in connection with the AAW award, it was said that her parents would not permit her to take part in the ‘60s-era nonviolent civil rights demonstrations that took place near her Louisville home, because they were afraid that she might not be able to remain nonviolent!
That feisty spirit of a girl with five brothers and no sisters has been balanced by a very tactful, feminine demeanor today. Colleagues say that she has adeptly handled being the only woman vice president with grace.
She told the AAW audience that she is very aware of the ground-breaking nature of her position. She tries to be an ambassador for the next generation as she goes about her duties.
Simmons work experience has been in the field of education. She was Provost of La Sierra University before her General Conference election and vice president for academic administration at Oakwood College. She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Louisville.