May 24, 2016:    This past weekend the Adventist denomination’s Columbia Union Conference held its constituency meeting that is scheduled every five years in the year following General Conference (GC) Sessions. Delegates from the eight local conferences voted to reappoint the top officers and expressed support for the organization’s goals and strategy.

This union conference includes a region in the eastern United States with about 150,000 members in 800 congregations, one of the largest in North America. It includes the most urbanized population in the country and many Adventist institutions, including Washington Adventist University (WAU), the GC office, the Washington Adventist Hospital and affiliated health care agencies, and the international Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

Pastor Dave Weigley was re-elected president, Pastor Rob Vandeman executive secretary, and Pastor Seth Bardu treasurer. The delegates also re-elected four vice presidents and appointed a new vice president for education due to the retirement of Dr. Hamlet Canosa after 44 years of service as an Adventist educator.

A significant feature of the constituency meeting was the graduation of the first class of 13 young adults from the REACH Urban Evangelism School, an urban outreach training program that the Columbia Union Conference operates in collaboration with WAU. Student came from across North America to spend a school year in a combination of classes and practical internships in Philadelphia under the leadership of Pastor Tara VinCross, an experienced church planter and youth worker. The curriculum includes Christian discipleship, community development, urban agriculture, evangelism learning to live incarnationally in various neighborhoods and understand the cycle of transformational mission. This program is one of the very few places in the worldwide denomination where specialized education in urban mission is offered.

Weigley grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Blue Mountain Academy in that conference as well as WAU), later graduating from Southern Adventist University. He also completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and will soon complete a Doctor of Philosophy at Andrews University (AU). He has served as a pastor, evangelist, conference ministerial director and president in the northwestern U.S. He has served as union conference president since 2006. Weigley and his wife, Becky, have two adult children and five grandchildren.

Vandeman, born in Hinsdale, Illinois, graduated from Union College and AU, and has served as a pastor in Colorado, Minnesota and Maryland, and later as a conference ministerial director and president. He was elected to the number two officer position in the union conference in 2011. Vandeman and his wife, Judy, have two adult children and three grandchildren.

Bardu was born in Liberia and has a degree in accounting from Oakwood University and an MBA from AU. He has three decades of experience in denominational finance management, previously in the Northeastern and South Central conferences and for the Adventist Health System and Southern Union Conference. He was appointed treasurer of the Columbia Union Conference in 2006.

Delegates voted to appoint Donovan Ross as the new vice president for education. He has served in Adventist education for 21 years, most recently as the union conference’s associate director for secondary education. Reappointed were Pastor Frank Bondurant, vice president for ministries development; Celeste Ryan Blyden, vice president for communication; Walter Carson, vice president and general counsel; and Pastor Rubén Ramós, vice president for multicultural ministries.

Four years ago in the summer of 2012, the Columbia Union Conference became the second union conference in North America to vote to end gender discrimination in the ordination of Seventh-day Adventist ministers, as Adventist Today reported at the time. Four out of five delegates at a special constituency session voted in favor of ordaining women to the gospel ministry despite a personal appeal by Pastor Ted Wilson, GC president, against the action. This action has been implemented under the GC Working Policy that assigns the approval of ordinations to the union conferences despite the vote last summer at the GC Session in San Antonio, Texas, against allowing the regional Division organizations of the denomination to deal with the issue.

Feature photo: Columbia Union Conference officers: Bondurant, Blyden, Ramós, Vandeman, Weigley, Bardu, Carson and Ross.