Millennials Respond to Ted Wilson’s Re-Election

Day Two, (Friday, July 3), of the General Conference Session saw the re-election of Ted Wilson. Though several delegates asked that the recommendation of Wilson be referred back to the nominating committee, in the end, Wilson’s re-election stood and was voted in by a very wide margin of delegates.

Because only 6% of the delegates are under 30, and only 10% are ages 30-39, the Millennial generation finds itself under-represented in a church where it comprises 62% of membership.

As a way of hearing Millennials, Spectrum is featuring young Adventist voices throughout this General Conference Session. We are posing a series of questions to these Millennials who will share their perspectives on the various issues happening at GC 2015. The first segment in Millennial Voices can be found here.

In this second installment of Millennial Voices, we have asked the following questions:

How do you feel about Ted Wilson's re-election? Is the election of our SDA President something you pay attention to, or that you feel impacts your life? As a re-elected President, what would you like to see Ted Wilson accomplish for the church over the next 5 years?

Daniel Peverini, Religious Studies major, La Sierra University Unsurprisingly, Friday saw the re-election of sitting GC President Ted N.C. Wilson. Since this conference opened Thursday, Elder Wilson has presented a campaign theme of 'revival and reformation,' directed to hastening Jesus' soon coming through the power of 'the Holy Spirit in the latter rain.' This latter rain can only be poured out if the Adventist church unites in evangelism and prayer, which build the church into a remnant capable of bringing God's final warning to all the world.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his landmark Democracy in America, spoke of the danger to democracy presented by the 'tyranny of the majority,' whereby freedom of individuals to dissent is drowned out by demagogic charisma and vilification of dissenters. This is a danger in any democracy, including our church governance structure.

My Western millennial peers were raised in a society that values individual choice and in a church that teaches that God affirms and protects individual freedoms. Whether or not they are right, many millennials might interpret Elder Wilson and his supporters as posing the kind of threat that de Tocqueville warned about. Depending on how Elder Wilson and his contingent handle Women's Ordination and changes to the church manual and fundamental beliefs, many millennials may feel disenfranchised and some may even walk out of the church.

As a Christian who finds in the faith goodness, truth, and beauty, I am saddened that my peers may leave the faith because they feel that there is no place for them in the church. But God works everywhere, and God can and will find us wherever we are. We are blessed to worship a God who is present and faithful, even here at the General Conference.

Danielle Pilgrim, Student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the Campus of Andrews University Ted Wilson's re-election is not the most exciting news to me. I consider President Wilson to be very conservative in his approach to most things. I am not saying that the conservative perspective is wrong, but neither is it right. This perspective is not always biblically accurate and it promotes an attitude that breathes legalism.

I do believe that Wilson’s thrust for evangelism is a good direction for the church simply because seeking and saving the lost is at the very heart of God. However, as much as we have to reach out to lost souls, we must also focus on retaining members in our church. As a church, we have a poor retention rate and discipleship process. We baptize many but lose plenty as a result of just focusing on numbers.

I think that instituting term limits would be wise. Term limits prevent lengthy leadership that is not effective for the body and season the church is in. Lastly, I believe that future Presidents need to reflect the diverse body of our world-wide church.

Karl Wallenkampf, Biology and Humanities double major, Walla Walla University I observe the election of a GC President as an indication of the general temperature of the world church. Initially, I am concerned by what I learned in my research about the election: short discussion despite delegates' concerns (I think requests for prayerful reconsideration should be taken seriously), neglecting an alternative system of secret ballots (an invaluable right we celebrated yesterday), and the lack of a process for voting among multiple candidates instead of a yes/no for a single one (important decisions of leadership may be better made with multiple options).

Despite those issues, Elder Wilson's nomination and reelection will hopefully result in his promised aims: grounding ourselves on Christ, exhibiting faithfulness, and encouraging everyone to be involved in evangelism (or so I read). I pray these goals are met. I would hope that in accomplishing those aims, Elder Wilson might stress that retention and in-reach become as valuable as missions, that the Millennial "future" of the church is actually as much its present as the baby boomers, and that the Bible might have multiple (perhaps few) Spirit-guided interpretations, each leading to a Christ-centered life—though they may result in belief grids different from his own.

Daria Chelbegean, a Nurse and Alumna of Loma Linda University I've basically left the SDA church. Ted Wilson's re-election is a definite step backwards for the church. The only thing that keeps me coming to church is a really progressive Sabbath School group that encourages open discussion of issues. Hearing that a man who is against women's ordination was re-elected is disappointing, but not necessarily surprising. The reason millennials are leaving the church is because ideologically, the church is behind, primarily in relation to women's ordination, racism and gay rights. I have two options at this point: stay in the church and help open minds to equality of the sexes, the races, and the orientations, or leave because the church is stuck in the 1950s. At the same time, I heard that most of the North America Division was opposed to Wilson's re-election, so I wonder if this will lead us to split off somehow. Unity does not mean uniformity, and we refuse to walk backwards with Ted.

Paul Marovitch, Small Business Owner in Southern California Seventh-day Adventism was founded by leaders of equality striving for a world enriched by community outreach and community leadership. If we continue to be led by an individual who believes we should exclude ourselves from the world we live in, we are hindering spiritual growth for Adventists and non-Adventists.

By failing to listen and learn from the world outside of Seventh-day Adventism, we are doing the exact opposite of what God has called us to do. The world needs to learn from each other, just as friends and family learn from each other by interacting with each other. Ted Wilson being re-elected will forfeit our chances of learning and growing as a world church.

If Ted was more open to implementing new ideas, I'm sure keeping him as our leader would be fine. The problem occurs when he continues to get caught up by ambiguous rules that he has proven himself incapable of interpreting and carrying out in a strategic fashion.

These rules were never intended to be our chains. They were intended to be an expression of who we are, and what we observe in and outside of our diverse world. Continuing to lead the way he has ruled out women as equals and defines non-Adventists as inferior.

Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for, a member of the General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas, and a Millennial.

Photo Credit: Bryant Taylor / NAD

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

although these interviewees all seem a bit glum over ted’s re-election, at least they appear to be following what’s happening in our church, at least to some extent…one thing’s for sure, when i was 25, i wasn’t remotely interested in anything going on at any adventist general conference…a lot can happen between the ages of 25 and 35, or so…

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I was clueless about what was going on on the GC level, even though many in my family were in church employ and leadership. We had no reason to: everyone was happy, resources were abundant, future employment was secure. People under thirty aren’t like to wonder about much unless something seems unfair or is going terribly wrong. When I was in school, the notion of voice & vote student membership on college boards was unheard of. That is common practice today, including on SDA college boards. Yes, a lot can happen during those next twenty or thirty years, but I think we are starting with a different kind of thinking.

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These same concerns that were introduced by these Millennials are ALSO most of the Huge concerns that many of us who have been in the church as baptized members for 40 to 60 years.
Maybe some of us have just stopped growing in our thinking past 30 to 40, and are in a Millennial Time Warp. We are not set in our ways, we have become instead Progressives, who wish to see the Gospel, not necessarily JUST Adventism, preached to the world, and to have a Church Body ready to welcome ALL those who Hear the Gospel and Respond to the Gospel. To be Baptized in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit!


Here’s an 80-year-old who agrees with the Millenials who were interviewed for this article. Having a GC president who is stuck in the '50s in his interpretation of the SDA doctrines and practices makes for a dissatisfied membership. Ted needs to resign, to turn over the reigns to someone from today’s generation, someone who knows how to lead [not govern!] a group of Christ-seekers. We need God’s leading, not Ted’s. And God is a supporter of women’s rights, of youth leadership, and of gay equality.


This article has really missed the mark about what it means to Christian and leadership of a Church. This thing is not about politics so the demographics really do not matter. Young, Old, Black or White, we should all be in one mind in Christ. So I don’t know how useful it would be to have a leader who identifies with whatever the thinking on the so called " Millennials" is. It should be as long as the leader matches up with Christ, that’s the only thing that matters.

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"…we are starting with a different kind of thinking."
Yes, and THIS is what is terrifying to an older generation who is not used to a collaborative way of processing organization.
They are used to a Top Down, I’m In Charge type of organization.
Questioning, and presentations of Alternative ways and means, and methods disrupt, and they CANNOT think and process in this Model of Organization.

On another Spectrum spot someone brought up that Jesus talked about division in a household.
What we have here is THE EXAMPLE of what Jesus was saying. The Division between Generations, the Generation Gap. The KIDS have become Adults, thinking Adults, and the Parents in the General Conference do not know how to relate to these thinking, reasoning, insightful Adult KIDS.
Unfortunately, The Kids do not know how to relate to authoritative acting parents either.
What many are doing is taking a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 — Leaving Father and Mother.


I hope you meant the 1850’s (or any time in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s). And I’m glad he’s holding the line. Our pillars are not subject to negotiation, and many of our standards used to be common in most churches. But, sadly, the churches have reached a point where they just follow the latest cultural fads. The church was never meant to reflect the culture, but to rise above it and lift it up. The Israelites weren’t too happy with some of the “doctrines and practices” in their time, either. Adopting the norms of the prevailing culture didn’t get them far. But, no one is forcing people to stay in a church that preaches doctrines and has standards with which they don’t agree.

The worst thing we could do would to elect a GC president from “today’s generation.” What we need is men of experience; not inexperienced youth who have not yet gained a good understanding of the big picture.


I was in the same boat when I was that age. You’ve just underscored the reason why not too many young people are delegates. Many of them are out of touch with what’s going on in the church at large, and many are just not mature enough or don’t have enough experience to vote intelligently.


Well, I think that 62% are almost all from overseas, where the church is more vibrant, and more supportive of TW. But wonder of wonders, not a single representative of that group is interviewed!! Weren’t they available? Couldn’t find any? All out to eat? Well, that does admit just a smidgen of bias…

Didn’t this just happen with a group of conservative groups who were targeted by the IRS?


President Wilson is not stuck in the 1850’s he is stuck in the 1950’s. The early SDA church was far less unified under one doctrine. Ellen White was still writing to individuals about their problems. The general conference sessions were small. The church was not multicultural.

By the 1950’s central authority has been established, GC sessions were held every 5 years. The church was worldwide and the theology of the time was being influenced by the return of men back from a world war and the establishment of strict gender roles.


When everyone is willing to call themselves “Christian” before identifying first as “Adventist” the church will finally have arrived where God intended. He never established an “Adventist” church; the first Christians began a new religious system after the Resurrection which was the most important belief of Christians then, and for many years.

Later, various salvific theories were presented, often eclipsing the Resurrection. But for Adventists, Sabbath has always been the most important and the requirement for heaven as has been taught.


Perhaps out of touch with the church in the same way that church leaders are out of touch with millennials AND the world.

The “pillars” are up for new additions at this meeting. Several of the FBs will be negotiated and either accepted or rejected.


Those who would marginalize Millenials simply are not correct about their intelligence or their love for the Church. I have the privilege of working with them on a college campus. These are informed and very intelligent productive Christians. Church leadership would do well to listen to these young adults. I find them open to learning, and they provide us “old folk” energy to continue to grow and explore our own faith. It is wrong to marginalize them. Just wrong!!


Here’s a millennial who would rather stay conservative than say, “God is a supporter of…” without biblical proof. Why should Ted resign his position for someone from today’s generation? Our church should not be about pleasing the audience and/or church members. It should be solely on following, worshiping, and obeying God in all things. God is bigger than you, me, and Ted. A single man and/or idea will not stand in the way of His plans for the church or us individually. Instead of calling for a resignation, perhaps we should be considering that prayer was heard and answered?

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This interview does not represent the real picture! The people interviewed are only American citizens and the SDA church in Latin America, Africa and some parts of the World are doing a good job with Millennials and they are very pleased with Wilson’s reelection.


Very good. This represents very well the majority of young Adventists in the developed world. They are rightfully cynical, discourages, and generally optimistic that God can work elsewhere and despite the GC failures.


I have flagged this as offensive. Calling young adults incapable is unacceptable the most of us and certain the young adults.


I’m sure you could find some adventist somewhere who teaches that Sabbath keeping is salvific, but that is clearly not our belief nor is is the way I was ever taught. Keeping the commandments, including the 4th, is a response, not the cause of salvation.

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Evidently, the Founders felt if of sufficient importance to give it the central place in the name of the denomination setting it apart from nearly all other Christian denominations, and for which it has been most widely known.

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