Like many General Conference presidents before him including Ole Olsen, William Spicer, William Branson, Robert Pierson, and his father Neal Wilson, Ted Wilson was molded by ministerial tenure in Africa. Now home to one third of the approximately 17 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide, continental Africa has shaped the global church in profound ways, notably among them providing a training ground for its premier leaders.
Wilson was born in 1950 to parents serving as missionaries in Africa. Spending his childhood in Egypt during the storied era of Gamal Nasser, the young Wilson witnessed the collapse of British hegemony and rise of Arab nationalism in the secular realm, and unprecedented organizational development—much of it still in place today—in Egyptian and Middle Eastern Adventism.
Ted Wilson held several positions of leadership in Africa for the length of the 1980s, including Ministerial and Stewardship Secretary of the Africa-Indian Ocean Division (1981-1985); Health & Temperance Director, Africa-Indian Ocean Division (1981-1984); and Secretary, Africa-Indian Ocean Division (1985-1990). During this exciting era in African Adventism, Wilson contributed to the prolific baptisms, humanitarian efforts, innovative programs and administrative and organizational restructuring. Indeed, Wilson witnessed firsthand the great shift of Seventh-day Adventism eastward that has completely transformed the denomination.
One of the many challenges Ted Wilson will face as president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church is to more fully incorporate people of color into denominational leadership and utilize their evangelistic passion and expertise in regions of little or nonexistent growth. His theme of “Revival and Reformation” is undoubtedly informed by his time in Africa, and his challenge will be to reproduce that experience on a global scale.
Such an outcome will transform Adventism’s often Western-rooted sensibilities of individualism, smug ease and spectatorship to communal responsibility, informed humanitarianism, and evangelistic preoccupation. Being Seventh-day Adventist will mean more than simply sporting a title—it will embrace a radical commitment to rescuing a sinking globe. __ Benjamin Baker is pursuing a doctorate in history at Howard University. He is the author of six books and the creator of blacksdahistory.org, where this essay first appeared.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2828