By AT News Team, July 3, 2015: The top leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination only hold office for five years at a time, unlike some other Christian bodies where bishops are appointed for life or until a mandatory retirement age. The method for selecting new leaders and renewing the mandate for incumbents is primarily centered in a method from 18th-century New England town meeting democracy. It is called the nominating committee.
A relatively small committee meets in private to review each leader and discuss new candidates. This committee presents a report with a single candidate for each position and the entire delegation then votes on the report, yes or no.
Adventist history has developed its own traditions related to this methodology. Instead of voting against a suggestion from the nominating committee, the tradition is for someone to move that the report be returned to the committee for reconsideration. In fact this almost never happens, but it illustrates the taboo among Adventists against open conflict or competition about who gets a leadership role.
It is also rare that a top leader is not re-nominated unless he has announced his retirement. It has only happened three times since 1900. At the 1922 GC Session, Pastor A. G. Daniells was asked to step aside as GC president and become secretary (second-ranking officer). At the 1990 GC Session, Pastor Neal Wilson (father of the current GC president) was retired although he had not intended to. And it happened again at the last GC Session in 2010, to Dr. Jan Paulsen, the president at the time. In fact, there is some evidence that nominating committees may now have a sense that the president should retire at least by the time he is 70 years of age.
Committee Appointed Thursday
One of the first items of business at a GC Session is to appoint a nominating committee. This is done through caucuses. Each of the GC divisions caucuses separately and the delegates from the world headquarters itself also caucus. Each division picks ten percent of its delegates as members of the nominating committee and the headquarters group picks eight percent of its delegates as committee members.
Yesterday (July 2) a total of 252 individuals were appointed by the caucuses to serve on the 2015 nominating committee; 233 from the union conferences and 19 from the headquarters group. When the report was presented, it was announced that only 34 of these individuals were women; 13 percent, despite the fact that a strong majority of the denomination’s total membership is female.
The committee is dominated by middle-aged males; two-thirds of the members are in their 50s or 60s. Only two percent are under 30 years of age and only six percent under 40 years of age. Again, despite the fact that a much higher percentage of the membership is made up of adolescents and young adults. Spectrum, the leading journal of Adventist academics, has published infographics in recent days that claim to show the real demographics of the global Adventist family, and this has led to a log of commentary on why the nominating committee and the entire delegation at this GC Session do not really represent very accurately the people in the pews.
Committee Officers Elected Last Night
At about 9 pm Thursday, the nominating committee had its first meeting. It immediately elected a chairman, vice chairman and two secretaries. Pastor Homer Trecartin, president of the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission, was elected chairman. He is a long-time missionary originally from the United States and served for a while on the staff of the Office of Global Mission at the denomination’s headquarters.
Dr. Richard Hart was elected vice chairman. He is president of Loma Linda University (LLU), the largest and most important of the denomination’s institutions. He is a physician, and LLU is both an educational and health care institution.
The two secretaries of the nominating committee are both academics. Dr. Leslie Pollard is president of Oakwood University, the historically African American school operated by Adventists in Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Cheryl Doss is a professor of world mission in the theological seminary at Andrews University near South Bend, Indiana.
All of the officers of the nominating committee are Americans, although 38 percent of Adventists live in Africa, 32 percent in Latin America, 19 percent in Asia and only 7 percent in North America, according to the report Friday morning from Dr. G. T. Ng, executive secretary of the GC. The actual membership of the committee does reflect closely the geographic distribution of the denomination’s membership because of the caucus method of its selection.
The committee is already meeting and very likely will have its first report before the afternoon is over. It is generally believed that Pastor Ted Wilson, because he is not yet 65 years of age and has given every indication that he expects to continue in office, will be re-nominated for the denomination’s top leadership post, president of the GC.