Denominational Leaders Elected in San Antonio: Comprehensive Overview
August 11, 2015: More than 125 individuals were elected to full-time, employed leadership positions in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination during the General Conference (GC) convened in July in San Antonio, Texas. There have been many announcements dribbled out over time in various media. Adventist Today has brought the entire list together here with some general observations about the overall group.
Who are these people? We have tried to identify the background of each individual and also describe the various entities within the overall structure. Of the top 30 positions, the majority of those elected were ordained ministers, while another 17 percent were educators and 27 percent were from other backgrounds, including business administration. Only one in five were women. Nearly half (47 percent) were from North America, 17 percent from Africa, 12 percent from Latin America, 10% each from Asia and Europe, and six percent from Australia.
Adventist Today has already reported on the three top officers of the denomination. Pastor Ted Wilson was re-elected to another five-year term as president, as was also Dr. G. T. Ng, the secretary or number-two officer. Juan Prestol-Puesan was elected treasurer; he had been the undertreasurer or second-ranking officer in the GC treasury and prior to that was treasurer of the denomination’s North American Division.
Famously only six GC vice presidents were elected at the specific request of Wilson and over a number of objections by delegates, dumping two veteran top leaders while three new men were elected. The new vice presidents are Pastor Guillermo Biaggi, who was a missionary serving as president of the Euro-Asia Division and originally from Argentina; Pastor Abner de Los Santos, who was vice president of the Inter-American Division; and Pastor Thomas Lemon, president of the Mid-America Union Conference in North America. Re-elected as vice presidents were Dr. Ella Simmons, the only woman serving at this level of the denomination’s leadership and a veteran educator in the United States; Pastor Geoffrey Mbwana who started denominational service in Africa; and Dr. Artur Stele, director of the Biblical Research Institute and formerly seminary dean in Russia, currently most well known for chairing the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC).
The denomination’s general secretariat now includes Pastor Myron Iseminger who was re-elected as undersecretary or the second-ranking officer in that unit. Before joining the GC officer group five years ago, he was a church administrator in a local conference in the United States and a missionary in Egypt and the Southern Asia-Pacific Division. Re-elected as associate secretaries were Pastor Gary Krause, an Australian who directs the GC Office of Global Mission and is working on a doctoral degree in urban ministry at the University of Queensland; Karen Porter, one of the few women who serve in the top ranks of the denomination and has long coordinated personnel policy related to missionaries; and John Thomas, a faculty member at Union College in Nebraska before joining the GC staff in 2010. New associate secretaries elected were Pastor Hensley Moorooven, previously an officer in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division; Pastor Claude Richli, previously associate publisher of the two official GC journals, Adventist Review and Adventist World; and Pastor Gerson Santos, previously secretary of the Greater New York Conference in North America.
The treasury staff now includes J. Raymond Wahlen as the new undertreasurer. He had previously been an associate treasurer at the GC, directed development of the denomination’s accounting software and was a missionary in Asia. George Egwakhe and Daisy Orion were re-elected as associate treasurers. Egwakhe has served for ten years at the GC and was originally from Nigeria although he has also served as a missionary in Asia and a treasurer in Africa. Orion is one of the few women serving in the denomination’s top ranks and entered denominational service in the Asia-Pacific region. Timothy Aka was also elected as an associate treasurer, having joined the GC staff in 2014 as an investment manager. He is a Canadian who previously worked in the finance industry at Edward Jones and at T.D. Waterhouse. And Pastor Delbert Pearman was elected an associate treasurer. He was director of planning in the GC Office of Adventist Mission and previously treasurer of the Adventist Church in Bermuda.
Directors of Departments and Ministries
Three new directors were elected; Dr. Ganoune Diop as director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) who has been an associate director representing the denomination at the United Nations; Pastor Duane McKey as director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries who was vice president of the Southwestern Union Conference in North America; and Pastor Almir Mauricio Marroni as publishing director who has been a vice president of the South American Division.
Re-elected were Pastor Mario Ceballos, director of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries; Linda Mei Lin Koh, director of Children’s Ministries; Pastor Williams Costa, communication director; Dr. Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, education director; Dr. Willie Oliver, director of Family Ministries; Dr. Peter Landless, director of Health Ministries; Pastor Jerry Page, secretary of the Ministerial Association; Heather-Dawn Small, director of Women’s Ministries; and Pastor Gilbert Cangy, director of Youth Ministries.
In two cases the incumbent was asked to continue to function until the end of the current calendar year so that a replacement can be found. Pastor Gary Dodge is director of planned giving and trust services for the GC and Pastor Erika Puni is director of stewardship.
At least 29 individuals were voted as associate directors in the GC departments of which six are new and the others were re-elected. Adventist Today has not listed all of these nor included them in the statistics in this story not because the work they do is not important, but just because readers undoubtedly have a limit as to how much detail they can think about.
The GC has 13 divisions or regional field headquarters for the denomination around the world. The leaders in this units are elected at the GC Session every five years, but the nominations originate in caucuses that include the members of the nominating committee from each division and are then reported to the entire nominating committee for vote before they go to the entire delegation for official confirmation.
Six new division presidents were elected in San Antonio. Each has roots within the region he now leads: Pastor Leonardo Asoy was president of the South Philippine Union Conference before being elected president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division. Pastor Mario Brito was ministerial secretary in the Inter-European Division before being elected president. Pastor Michael Kaminsky was secretary and vice president of the Euro-Asia Division before being elected president. Pastor Ezras Lakra was president of the Northern India Union Conference before being elected president of the Southern Asia Division. Pastor Glenn Townend was president of the Trans-Pacific Union Mission and earlier president of the Western Australia Conference before becoming president of the South Pacific Division. Dr. Elie Weick was a department head in the West-Central Africa Division when he was elected president.
Seven of the division presidents were re-elected: Pastor Dan Jackson in North America, Pastor Raafat Kamal in the Trans-European Division; Pastor Erton Kohler in South America; Pastor Jairyong Lee in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division; Dr. Israel Leito in the Inter-American Division; Dr. Paul Ratsara in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division; and Pastor Blasious Ruguri in East-Central Africa.
Each division has a secretary and a treasurer. Only six of these 26 individuals were new, with 18 people re-elected and two vacancies yet to be filled. Among the 36 division officers only three are missionaries; the others are all from the region in which they serve.
General Conference Auditing Service (GCAS)
The auditors for the denomination operate from an internal auditing service which is structure to achieve a degree of independence and is, in turn, audited by an outside firm. Paul Douglas was re-elected as director of GCAS. He is a native of Jamaica who first joined GCAS in 1997 and was first elected director in 2007.
Twelve individuals were elected lay members of the GCAS governing board. The GC Working Policy specifies that there is to be one such person from each of the 13 world divisions who, along with four of the top GC officers, make up the board. They are to be “qualified auditors and/or knowledgeable professionals in related fields” who are not denominational employees.
Dr. Jack Krogstad serves as chairman of the board. He holds an endowed faculty chair in accounting and management and is an associate dean of the business school at Creighton University, a Catholic university in Omaha, Nebraska. He is an Adventist, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has served as an academic fellow with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.
New to the board, elected at this session, will be Esther Abayo, chief executive officer of Penuel Financial Services in Tanzania; Elirie Aransas, a CPA and business school lecturer, in Cebu, Philippines; Lyudmila V. Chyzhevska from the Euro-Asia Division; Margaret Dines, a CPA with Super Forte, SMSF Auditing Service in Melbourne, Australia; Nnamdi Onyenmuru, managing partner at Martin Onyenmuru and Company in Nigeria; and Masao Yanaga, professor of law and accounting in the business school at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
Re-elected as lay members of the board were Ailton Doral from the South American Division; Hyden Gittens, a CPA who is a partner in the accounting firm Versant Accounts and Consultants in Saint Maarten where he was appointed governor of the island of Saint Eustatius in the Netherlands Antilles by Queen Beatrix; Phillip Ndlovu, a Chartered Accountant and managing partner for P Ndlovu and Associates in South Africa; Frensly Panneflek, regional manager at Lloyd’s Register Nederland BV in the Netherlands; and Dr. John Stanley, principal consultant with Quintesse Consultants in India.