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Turmoil in Texas: Members Set for Contentious Constituency Session

Members of the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists will gather at the Keene Church on Sunday for a constituency meeting where new conference officers will be elected. The meeting promises to be a memorable one given the many changes that are being proposed by the nominating committee and the response to those changes that have been discussed extensively on Facebook.

Current president Leighton Holley was asked not to return. The conference treasurer and the education superintendent were also not renominated.

To fill these vacancies, the nominating committee looked to leaders in other departments as well as outside the conference. For president, the committee nominated Larry Moore, who is currently the ministerial director. Gary Brady, the executive vice president/director of evangelism, and executive secretary Carlos Craig have been nominated to return to their current positions.

Edwin Romero, treasurer from the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference, is nominated to fill the spot currently held by treasurer Errol Eder. Kevin Kossick, a regional director of education at the Georgia-Cumberland Conference was nominated to replace Bonnie Eder as education superintendent. However, Kossick declined the position.

The nominating committee will meet on Saturday night April 2 to decide on another nominee.

All of these changes, plus the election of the other conference department directors, will face a vote by the constituency on Sunday.

Leaked e-mails and rumors on Facebook suggest that Holley would like to remain conference president and plans to fight for it.

Pressure to replace Holley has come from alumni of Valley Grande Academy. They are upset about the money from the foundation for the school that has been spent by the conference on a lawsuit it filed and lost to ElderCare, the operators of a nursing home that leases property from the academy.

After the conference officers, on behalf of Valley Educational Foundation, tried to evict ElderCare for failure to renew their contract, the foundation found itself formally sued by ElderCare for damages. When the federal district court issued a verdict in favor of the foundation (and against ElderCare), the care facility’s operators appealed to a federal panel. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to hear the appeal, and she reversed the decision, ruling in favor of ElderCare. Conference leaders’ decision to continue to litigate the case has generated criticism from constituents who have repeatedly complained that individuals are advised by church doctrine not to sue one another, and that the advice should apply to the church itself.  Whether the foundation will continue to appeal the most recent decision is not known at this time.

Meanwhile, various news agencies began picking up the story, and an international media firm created a video telling the story of the lawsuit. It has been circulating on YouTube for some time. On Facebook, alumni have been sharing stories and information and asking for change. Open letters have been written to church officials at the union, division, and General Conference addressing the situation.

General Conference president Ted Wilson visited the school earlier this month. North American Division president Dan Jackson responded very specifically to one of their letters in which the alumni association asked for assistance in getting the conference to return $800,000 to the academy’s Valley Educational Foundation.

“The funds that you feel should be returned to Valley Educational Foundation belong to the entire constituency. The Executive Committee has no right to vote an appropriation of this size to one organization within the conference without a clear vote from the constituency,” Jackson said.

“Therefore, it would be my understanding that, as a respected organization within the Texas Conference, you have every right to appeal to the constituency-at-large for the restoration of those funds.”

Jackson added that placing the matter before the entire constituent group “will ultimately be in the best interests of the entire conference.”

On Sunday, the estimated 1500 constituency delegates will have their say.


April 1: This story reflects corrections of Edwin Romero’s position and the makers of the video.

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