New Faces, Re-elections and Firings among Vice Presidents, Division Presidents
By AT News Team, July 7, 2015: After concern was expressed by delegates about a nominating committee report that unexpectedly fired two GC vice presidents it went back to committee, but was eventually voted. Also on Monday (July 6) a list of 13 division presidents was voted, six of them new.
Pastor Dan R. Jackson, age 66, was re-appointed for another five-year term as president of the denomination’s North American Division. He was president of the Adventist denomination in Canada when he was elected five years ago. He had served as a pastor and church administrator in Canada, as well as spending five years as a missionary in Southern Asia. He is a native Canadian and graduate of Canadian University College as well as the seminary at Andrews University. Jackson and his wife, Donna, have three children and four grandchildren.
Dennis Hokama, a reporter for Adventist Today, discovered last week the compassion and warmth for which Jackson is noted. Hokama’s wife is a delegate from the Pacific Union Conference and when the couple arrived at the Alamodome, searching for where to register, they happened to encounter Jackson.
“He enthusiastically volunteered to show us the way even though it was in the opposite direction he was headed and a long distance from the hotel,” Hokama recalled. “Along the way, the number of people he joyously greeted and hugged was extraordinary. And, when my wife could not find the meal tickets in her huge delegate bag, much to my amazement, Jackson wasted no time in getting down on his knees to search though every compartment of the delegate bag while people walked around us in a busy hallway.”
GC Vice Presidents
Four of the nine GC vice presidents had announced their retirement prior to the session; Dr. Michael Ryan, Dr. Benjamin Schoun, Pastor Armando Miranda and Pastor Lowell Cooper. Only six names were proposed by the nominating committee: Dr. Guillermo Biaggi, a missionary from Argentina serving as president of the Euro-Asia Division; Pastor Thomas Lemon, president of the Mid-America Union Conference; Dr. Abner de Los Santos, a vice president in the Inter-American Division and originally a pastor from Mexico; Geoffrey Mbwana, Dr. Ella Simmons and Dr. Artur Stele, all three incumbents.
This proposal results in the departure of two of the current vice presidents, Dr. Delbert Banker, who was president of Oakwood University when he was elected to the GC, and Pastor Pardon Mwansa, who was a division officer in Africa. This would be “the biggest shift in top leadership in living memory,” wrote Andrew McChesney, news editor for the Adventist Review.
On Sunday, Dr. Gina Brown from Washington Adventist University asked that the report recommending six names for GC vice president be referred back to the nominating committee with a request to add more candidates. Pastor Ted Wilson, the GC president, was in the chair at that point and ruled that “if you have a particular reason you wish to speak to the chairman of the nominating committee, then you can do that.” He asked Brown if she had any objection to meeting with the chairman of the committee behind the stage right now. He then invited any other delegate who wished to do so to join them.
Pastor Alvin Kibble, a vice president for the NAD, also questioned why the changes were being made. It is the first time since the 1950s that there is no African American among the vice presidents of GC. But, when the report was brought back on Monday it was adopted. The only explanation of the reduced number of vice presidents was the fact that two major institutions have been shifted to the NAD and a third one closed down, which reduces the workload of the vice presidents.
There were six new names among the presidents of the 13 world divisions when that report came from the nominating committee. Pastor Ted Wilson, GC president, reminded the delegates that “every division president is a vice president of the General Conference,” according to the Adventist News Network (ANN) bulletin. The delegates voted to accept the report.
The six new division presidents are Leonardo R. Asoy in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, Mario Brito in the Inter-European Division, Michael Kaminskiy in the Euro-Asia Division, Ezras Lakra in the Southern Asia Division, Glenn Townend in the South Pacific Division and Elie Weick-Dido in the West-Central Africa Division.
A brief background on the division presidents was provided by ANN and is published here in alphabetical order, except for Jackson who is mentioned above.
Pastor Leonardo R. Asoy, newly elected president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, most recently served as the president of the South Philippine Union Conference based in Cagayan de Oro City. He has served as a pastor and division Sabbath School director. He and his wife have two grown children.
Pastor Mario Brito, the new president of the Inter-European Division based in Berne, Switzerland, was formerly Ministerial Association secretary for the division that includes Germany, Switzerland and several nations in eastern and southern Europe.
Pastor Raafat A. Kamal has been president of the Trans-European Division since 2014. Originally from Lebanon, Kamal began his denominational service as an educator. He has served in England, Norway, Pakistan and Iran.
Pastor Michael F. Kaminskiy comes to the leadership of the Euro-Asia Division after being secretary and vice president of the division. It includes many of the nations that have emerged from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Pastor Erton C. Köhler was reelected as president of the South American Division, a position he has held since 2007. A native of Brazil, he was the youngest division president when he was elected, after serving as a youth director. He has a theology degree from Brazil Adventist University.
Pastor Ezras Lakra, elected president of the Southern Asia Division, is president of the Northern Indian Union Conference based in New Delhi. He and his wife have two children and one grandson.
Pastor Jairyong Lee has another term as president of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division where he has been since 2005. He was a pastor in South Korea and has served as a theology professor and director of the 1000 Missionary Movement, a young adult volunteer program in Korea, as well as Ministerial Association secretary, stewardship director and Global Mission coordinator for the division.
Dr. Israel Leito was reelected president of the Inter-American Division where he has served since 1994. Leito, a native of the Caribbean island of Curaçao, breaks a record for longest serving division president at 21 years and has seen membership in the division go from 1 million to nearly 4 million. He has a Ph.D. in sociology from American University and also served as GC youth director.
Dr. Paul S. Ratsara has been president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division since 2005. Before that he served as division secretary. He lost his wife, Denise, in 2013, following a battle with cancer. He married Joanne in November 2014 and their blended family includes nine children.
Pastor Blasious M. Ruguri was first elected president of the East-Central Africa Division at the GC Session in 2010. He began his career as a pastor and has studied global leadership at Andrews University.
Pastor Glenn Townend was elected president of the South Pacific Division. He is president of the Trans-Pacific Union Mission and has been president of the Western Australia Conference. He has also served as a pastor and church planter.
Dr. Elie Weick-Dido was voted president of the West-Central Africa Division where he has been Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Director. He earned both the D.Min. and Ph.D. degrees from Andrews University and has served as pastor in Haiti.