by Jeff Boyd
By AT News Team, October 28, 2014
As the first woman to be elected to the position of conference president within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Dr. Sandra Roberts was recently labeled “living history” by The Press-Enterpise, a newspaper based in Riverside, CA, serving Inland Southern California. The press coverage commemorates Roberts' first year as president of the Southeastern California Conference, an area that includes approximately 70,500 members in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties.
Roberts' lack of recognition by the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (GC), which is the Church's global governing body, was arguably the focus of the article. “The world body still does not recognize Roberts’ election. Nor does it view her ordination as valid. Her name is conspicuously absent from the Adventist Online Yearbook’s listings of top administrators in the Riverside-based Southeastern California Conference…. A line is all that appears after 'President',” reports David Olson for the paper.
After addressing Roberts' ability to lead effectively despite this controversy, the story considers the upcoming vote on women's ordination that will be held at the General Conference assembly in 2015. Olson explains, “The 2015 measure is somewhat of a compromise. It would allow each of the 13 geographic divisions of the church to decide whether to permit the ordination of women. The executive committee only voted to place the item on the 2015 session agenda. It did not recommend a vote for or against.”
Finally, the article finishes by returning to the theme of Roberts' marginalization by GC leadership. “Roberts attended this month’s annual council meeting in Maryland, where women’s ordination was discussed and the executive committee acted. But the only female Adventist conference president in the world was forbidden from speaking on the matter during official sessions. Conference presidents in divisions that host annual councils typically are allowed to speak. But the world church does not recognize Roberts as a conference president, so she had to wear a 'visitor' tag like anyone else who was simply observing the proceedings.”
UPDATE: The Press-Enterprise posted a follow-up article on October 27, 2014. This interview between David Olson and Sandra Roberts focuses primarily on ordination. It included a comparison between the recognition shown to her at the recent GC meetings and those that take place within the North American Division (NAD): "Unlike the worldwide Adventist Church, the North American Division recognizes Roberts as a pastor and as president of the Riverside-based Southeastern California Conference. As at last year’s division meeting, she will be treated the same as any other conference president, division spokesman Julio Muñoz said. 'Sandra Roberts was elected by her constituency, and that is why the North American Division recognizes her as president of that conference,' Muñoz said. 'She is entitled to represent her constituency.'”
The complete article can be read here—“ADVENTISTS: Female Conference President Is Living History” (David Olson, PE.com, 26 Oct 2014). The follow-up interview is available here—"More of my conversation with Inland Adventist leader Sandra Roberts" (27 Oct 2014).