The Story Behind the Parade of Wilson Referrals: The Nomination Day Surprise
By Dennis Hokama, July 9, 2015: That Ted Wilson was announced as the nominee for president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination on the morning of July 3, in the third business session of the 60th General Conference, was as expected as the sunrise. But the spectacle of what happened next caught most observers by surprise. Immediately after Wilson’s name was announced by Dr. Leslie Pollard, the secretary of the Nominating Committee, and then seconded, delegate Raymond Hartwell immediately went to the mic to challenge Wilson’s nomination by requesting that the name of Ted Wilson be referred back to the committee.
A shocked session chairman Pardon Mwansa tried to discourage Hartwell by saying, “In most cases the Nominating Committee looks and examines quite a lot before they bring their report here. We encourage referring the report back only if you have very substantive issues that you would want to raise with the Nominating Committee.”
Hartwell was undeterred, and had obviously prepared his response. “I’m willing to meet with the Nominating Committee if that should be their desire. According to our General Conference Rules of Order, page 5, under Elections, number 6, it states that with ‘a request that the report be referred back to the Nominating Committee for further consideration, it is the usual procedure for the chair to accept the referral.’”
Mwansa tried to circumvent that by persuading Hartwell to turn his request into a motion that would obviously be defeated handily. “Yes, that is the usual procedure, but I would like to test it with the group, if you are willing to turn that into a motion. I would rather get the sense of the body as to where we are.”
But Hartwell wasn’t having any of that. “I’m respectfully requesting that we follow the written part that says, ‘It’s the usual procedure to accept the referral.’ Mr. Chairman, it’s your session and you can guide the body. I’m just presenting the request very respectfully.”
Mwansa seemed inclined to relent, and then Hartwell got additional support from a point of order at mic #6, which Mwansa recognized.
A delegate named Sadrail Saint-Ulysse declared, “I would like to point out that if there is a request for referral, it should be honored at all times.”
With that, Mwansa sent Hartwell to meet with the Nominating Committee chair and secretary. Only a few minutes later, as expected, it was announced by Homer Trecartin that the Nominating Committee officers had listened to whatever Hartwell had told them and concluded that it was a matter they had already addressed.
Mwansa therefore announced that the body was then ready to vote on the nomination of Wilson. But this turned out to be only the beginning of what appeared to be a referral parade, as Sadrail Saint-Ulysse made his own request for a referral, and when he was finished, yet another delegate (whose name I did not get) made the same request for a third time. At this point, Mwansa apparently decided that this was a game and cut off further referrals. The question was called and Ted Wilson was voted in a few minutes later.
But what was that flurry of referrals all about? Were there serious underlying issues? Did the Nominating Committee take them seriously? Were they coordinated? The Review’s printed version of the minutes (the July 6 General Conference Bulletin, pp. 41, 42) were consulted to find out the name of the third delegate who requested a referral. Curiously, there is not even a mention of the third referral.
The Hartwell Interview
AT caught up with Ray Hartwell, the 60-year-old president of the Pennsylvania Conference on the delegates floor after the business session on July 6. He was seated on the left side of the front row of the NAD section that was located on the extreme right side of the AD*, about midway back. After the close of business, at about 5:15 p.m. AT sat down on the front row and spoke with him for about 20 minutes.
AT: We observed your action to refer Ted Wilson’s nomination back to the nominating Committee on Friday. Then after you had left to meet with representatives of the Nominating committee, two other delegates made the same request. Observers could not help but wonder if you knew that others would also be making requests to refer Wilson’s name back to the Nominating Committee.
Hartwell: I had no idea that others would make the same request, and do not know them. I only learned about it after the fact!
AT: Surely you must have known that it would be impossible to derail Wilson’s election, and that challenging it so publicly might get you into some political trouble with his supporters after his inevitable re-election.
Hartwell: It was strictly a matter of principle! Political considerations did not enter into it at all. Some of my friends have told me that my actions probably only hardened the support of those who support Ted Wilson.
AT: Do you know Ted Wilson personally?
Hartwell: Yes! The Hartwells and the Wilsons go way back to the days when his father Neal Wilson was serving as president of the Egypt mission and my uncle, Raymond Hartwell, was serving as Middle East Union Secretary, based in Beirut, Lebanon. The Hartwell and Wilson families have many good memories of those years of service together.
AT: Did you feel that the committee members you met with actually gave you a fair hearing, or do you think they give you the clichéd “Oh, we’ve already dealt with your concerns”? They seemed awfully hasty in their deliberations.
Hartwell: I know Elder Pollard, Dr. Hart and Homer Trecartin. I trust their integrity, and I trust the process. I don’t feel at liberty to discuss any of the actual contents of my concerns, but I will say that it had nothing to do with women’s ordination or fundamental belief #6.
AT: What kind of documentation were you able to provide them for your concerns?
Hartwell: I provided them with primary sources in the form of names and phone numbers they could call to verify my concerns.
AT: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us!
It was apparent to AT that Raymond Hartwell was a sober, conscientious church leader who takes his duties and responsibilities as a GC delegate very seriously.