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What Happened?: A Delegate Reflects on the Mechanics of the Wilson Election

So here I am in Atlanta, a first time delegate, attending my first ever General Conference Session, representing that most difficult and intractable of global regions, the Trans-European Division. I’m a Brit, a Scotsman from the small Adventist church in Crieff, a beautiful town in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands.

After the events of Friday morning I’m not exactly sure why I’m in Atlanta at all.

I’ve never been clear on why we adopt the strange hybrid system we do for ‘electing’ our officials. We delegate responsibility to a nominating committee who then bring a single name for each post to the wider church for their approval. We do this at all levels of the church, at least as far as I know. And that is what we did on Friday to elect our new GC President.

In my local church when the nominating committee presents their report I know all the people on that list. I’ve prayed with them, argued with them in Sabbath School, ate lunch with them after church. They are my friends.

The GC nominating committee met and came back on Friday morning with the name of Ted Wilson. OK, I think, who is Ted Wilson? Are we going to be told something about him? Do we have a video presentation? Some handouts? Anything?

No – it seems we’re going to have a vote. Right away.

Sunday, June 27: GC VP Mark Finley counts delegate votes on the floor.

I see a fellow TED delegate stumble as he runs to the nearest microphone. But there’s already a line at the mic – the Wilson announcement has interrupted a discussion on the Secretary’s report – and it’s unclear if he can go immediately to the mic. He discusses the matter with the officials manning the microphone stand. But it’s too late. The vote is called and taken. It’s all over in 90 seconds.

I took more care and attention ordering my breakfast in the hotel that morning than I did in ‘electing’ the spiritual leader of my church.

I’m a little shocked. Another delegate sitting behind me mutters darkly about having just “seen a coup d'état”. She is not happy.

Here’s my problem. I don’t know who Ted Wilson is. I don’t know what he stands for. How do I know if I want to vote for or against him? I sense politics at work. I read later in the Spectrum blog that Wilson will be ‘conservative’. Is that why the vote was rushed through? Are we trying to avoid a left/right clash? I’m not being faux naïve here – I really would like to know.

I live a long way from the Adventist epicentre of Maryland. I’m not privy to the politics of the GC HQ. And I’m not sure it would be good for my soul to be better informed on those politics.

My dilemma is that unless the authorities are going to inform me in a meaningful manner about those for whom I am voting I shall be forced to get involved with those politics. To do otherwise would be to neglect my responsibilities as a delegate. Unless, of course, that responsibility is to simply raise my voting card when instructed and not ask any questions. No – surely that is too cynical?

Are we a democracy? If so, inform me as to my choices. If not then don’t ask me to choose.


Steve Logan, Ph.D., is an engineering consultant specialising in fluid mechanics software. He is a member of the British Union Conference Executive Committee and a trustee of ADRA UK (which brings him great joy!)

First photo: ANN

Photo: Alexander Carpenter

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