Twenty-Six Years under Wilson Leadership: a Review (1 of 2)

When Elder Ted Wilson’s current term as General Conference (GC) president terminates in 2025, a Wilson will have led the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for 26 of the last 45 years. Adventism is a relatively large global church that periodically elects its leaders through a “democratic” process. In modern times, it is rare to have two members of the same family exercise such a dominant administrative presence. Ted Wilson is the first president to serve three terms since the church switched to a five-year term system. If Ted, who will be 75 when his present term is up, relinquishes the GC presidency, he will have served three five-year terms compared with his father’s two. He is now midway through his third term, and as we begin the countdown to the end of his 15-year incumbency, it is not too early to assess what the Adventist Church has gotten in return for 26 years under the father/son duo. I will begin this examination by reflecting on the first Elder Wilson’s tenure as lead administrator of the world church. The next column will consider the stewardship of his son.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Bravo, Merikay Silver. There should be a statue of you in the lovely environs of the General Conference campus. You are a hero.

Will it take similar trauma for the church to enfranchise its women pastors?

Why so hardheaded and slow to learn?

The Wilson eras have certainly witnessed a lurching backwards in focusing on the Gospel of Jesus.

Forgive us, Lord, for empowering such wasteful years and personas of power. Time for dynasties to cease.


Yes very well written and summarized. This Wilson type of “leadership” is so characteristic of the Adventist DNA which has led many down the wrong path.
“Ford’s critique is a concern at the heart of the gospel itself.”
Jesus claim “I am the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6) with many other references to the truth in Jesus, is what Adventism denies. Refusing to discard immature doctrines by fallible humans has long placed this church under a curse of rejecting the truth for the sake of holding to its misguided “present truth” from a bygone era of confusion.
The efforts to justify “1844” by holding onto EGW and the investigative judgement is a distortion of the gospel and thus a different and false gospel which the Bible condemns.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:8).

Paul also wrote "For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus …, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:4)

I acknowledge and commend the truth seekers who are no longer willing to “put up with it easily enough” and have departed Adventism because of its preference for falsehood rather than truth. I am not putting up with it. Good work Matthew Quartey but why would you still live in an Adventist ghetto?


Unless I “miss my guess,” Dr. Gil Valentine may be preparing to cover the Wilson(s) as he has the Pierson years. One can only hope. I was at Sligo for much of Neal Wilson’s tenure and saw someone who tried to make room for progressive Adventism (initial support of the Adventist Forum and Spectrum, and earlier for Jack Provonsha and Graham Maxwell) but failed to see that it was too much too soon for the “establishment.”

Change of this magnitude needed at least a few years of better SS Quarterlies and a consensus among SDA administrators and academics that they would allow serious conversation at the BRI or other venues. Instead, unexpected new research was too threatening so such voices were sidelined into private efforts (Today, Spectrum). What has been that legacy? Loss of young people, a fundamentalism that will not capitulate to evidence even in Ellen White studies and an exodus of thoughful, open Adventists to either the margins of the church or to other faith communities. Happening elsewhere as well.


I’m glad we got a reprieve in Jan Paulsen, who was so warm and encouraging—about Jesus and loving others.

But back to the Wilsons. With millions of Adventists around the world, why would God tie up so many years of leadership with only one family leading?

Can God not lead through anyone else?

And why a family that does not reflect Jesus in showing equality to all people?

I was appalled to hear of the older Wilson’s treatment of Merikay Silver and the manipulation of how the vote for Women’s Ordination was handled along with the threats to unions who did not comply by the current GC president.

What place does such power over have in representing God?

Sadly, I fear God has left the GC building.


To understand Neal Wilson one only needs to “listen” to him. His first speech as GC President ended with a strident claim that the pillars of the church would not fall.

“Let the word go out from this Annual
Council that any attempt to tear down the pillars of the faith will be
resisted. Seventh-day Adventists are on the march, moving intelligently,
constantly, rapidly, courageously toward the promised land.”
GC Annual Council minutes October, 1979


And also time to put the GC in its proper place. It is not a governing organization; we have just allowed that to happen through their bullying. There is simply too much deference to the GC. For example, at the endless meetings about women’s ordination and punishing the wayward union and conferences, why didn’t someone stand up and say, “You, sir, are the problem. We will act independently of anything that gets voted here on this matter.” Why didn’t someone? Afraid? Threat to career path? Hidden financial issues?


Great review! I think an organization has the freedom to do what it wants in terms of requiring adherence to a creed. However, it shouldn’t surprise the leadership if those questioning those pillars (with good reason and intent) decide that they cannot in good conscience continue supporting such. As a friend recently remarked in a different context, the only ones left will be those making a deliberate decision to believe the unbelievable.


The problem with this church is it’s too global. It treats everything with a one size fits all attitude. This is why we have men like the Wilson’s leading this church on the wrong path. We can only pray that God will bring someone to steer the church in the right direction at the 2025 session, if Jesus doesn’t return by then.


YIKES, @PapaAfful.

No objections this time. You blew the roof off the sucker.


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I’ve said the same thing numerous times on this website. Is Ted the best we can do? of course, the answer is a resounding NO. But constituency election events are a joke. I vowed never to attend another one after the last one I was a part in. You could have an avowed child molester on the docket for a continuing position and the crowd would still vote them in. Until this church looks at a system where we are given alternative options, instead of the rubber stamp process, this church is going nowhere. Unlike most elections where you have candidates who present varying viewpoints and you get to choose the one who would take the church in the direction you think best, you’re going to get the same old tired leadership that we have…and Ted is a prime example of a pathetic leader. Just take his Great Controversy idea, which I think is only going to rile up the rest of the religious world. It is the stupidest idea I think I have ever heard of… but we are plowing full steam ahead. It will cost the lion’s share of our budget for several years and will be the most ineffective ministry we have ever engaged in.

My name is right out there on this post… It wouldn’t Suprise me to see someone attempt to disfellowship me. Knock yourself out Ted.


whatever church leaders were thinking, rank and file Adventists i knew at PUC, where this Adventist Forum had been held, considered Ford’s presentation blasphemous, and a direct fulfillment of the egw prediction that her inspiration would be attacked in the Church at the end of time…i’m very glad i witnessed this presentation for myself…it was an historic moment in our church i’ll never forget…

my best guess is that Neal Wilson personally received thousands of very angry letters from parents and church members, demanding he take action…i’m not sure another president could have done anything differently…i think the level of widespread anger, not so much over anything doctrinal as the treatment of our prophet, left the GC with no choice…i’ve never seen such an uprising of common church people anywhere since…

as for the Merikay Silver case, it’s hard to believe the same person who acted so courageously and decisively in the Ford case could become so embroiled in a mere cultural issue…my only way to explain it is that Neil Wilson must have believed that male headship outside of marriage was a biblical principle…somehow he must have thought God was calling him to stand up for this principle against the encroachment of the state…

i think it’s likely TW sees this headship issue in the same way…this explains a lot of what we saw leading into and out of San Antonio…

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If it had been Fighur or Paulsen in charge it would have been handled differently. For a start GV would not have been a show trial. It would have been a serious examination of the doctrine.

Glad to see you point out the real issue. The IJ doctrine is indefensible biblically so the only grounds to “attack” Ford was on his supposed slight of EGW.

If you haven’t read it already, I suggest you read Merikay’s book. NW exhibits the same behaviour in both cases. It definitely was not courageous.

What is the saying? A leopard can’t change their spots…


Jeremy,no matter how high the pedestal on which Mrs. White is placed, it is not right to diminish the importance of a cultural issue that involved the discrimination of female church employees by denying them an honest wage and continuing to rob those women after the church was forced to change course by not compensating for lower social security and other retirement funds based, in part, on those lower wages. This issue does not deserve to be refered to as a “mere” cultural issue. I do agree with you that Mr Wilson became “embroiled” by his continued disregard of American law and by misrepresenting the structure of the church in court. I was a church employee at the time. I don’t remember hearing any expressions of regret. I do remember a quiet vilification of Merikay for airing the church’s laundry in public.


NW’s testimony in court changed the church irrevocably. It was the first public admission by a church leader that the SDA church was a hierarchical institution, the same as the Catholic church. EGW, along with all the other pioneers would have rolled in their graves at that statement. But it was ok to misrepresent the church in court, under oath because it was in a good cause…:shushing_face::thinking:


Thank you for this refresher course on what happened under Neil Wilson during the 1970s and 80s. I lived through it all at the La Sierra University library where we were discussing these things among ourselves and gathering information for the heritage room. It was during those years that I stopped trusting the administration of the church. I also stopped considering Ellen White a prophet. Nothing since that time has changed my mind about either of those things. In fact, under Ted Wilson things have just gotten worse and it is hard for me now to say that I am an Adventist. There is no reason why this church cannot ordain women in the United States. I am proud of those SDA churches that do ordain their women pastors.


fair enough, but doctrine wasn’t the issue…strictly speaking, Ford’s apotelesmatic principle isn’t saying our interpretation of Dan 8:14 isn’t one of several possibilities, although it is true that he strongly implied it was the one possibility that was impossible…

the issue was the extreme fall-out with rank and file church members over egw that rapidly spread beyond PUC…it was obviously the GC’s call to do something, and i believe Paulsen, while he may have convened ongoing doctrinal investigation, would have sacked Ford over his open disagreement with egw…this has been standard practice in our Church through many administrations…

what do you see as being indefensible biblically about IJ…i think it’s completely biblical…

to the contrary, had egw been placed on a higher pedestal, Merikay Silver couldn’t have happened…the HS’s choice of a single woman to lead the first instalment of our church would have taken hold, with all its lessons perceived, understood and applied, and no-one would have even imagined that the Church should be enforcing husband headship anywhere, much less in a general setting…

male headship is a “mere” cultural issue…it has no scriptural basis other than in the cultures the bible parenthetically describes…we know that theological attempts to ascribe it more weight forces a contradiction between Moses and egw on the one hand, and Paul on the other, meaning it’s a nonstarter in our Church, given our biblical basis, and view that the bible is a coherent unit when properly understood…

It is neither indefensible or supportable, EGW’s take is subject to a lot of supposition. The very words used in the text surrounding this issue are in question. The term “cleansed” is truly in question. Many of the modern translations translate this word as “restored” or “renewed”. This gives a much different take on the entire understanding of the IJ. There will, obviously, be a judgment. It will take place at the return of Jesus. It will not take over 170 years. For a God who can speak things into existence, He certainly won’t take over a hundred years to accomplish this process. Also, the notion that Jesus did not enter the most holy place in heaven until 1844 is discredited by the simple face that several texts in the NT point to the fact that when he went back to heaven that he took his place at the right hand of God (the Father). God abides on the mercy seat in the most holy place.

You can believe in EGW’s take or you can believe in Des Ford’s take on this subject. It doesn’t have any part in your salvation. I don’t know why we can’t allow people to accept or reject what is so inconsequential to their salvation. We need to enlarge the tent and stop trying to carve this concept into stone.


Well said, Kathleen…I remember those days at La Sierra!

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I appreciated this summary very much. However, I think the impact of the Merikay Silver lawsuit was understated, because no mention was made of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars (tithe money?) which was spent in legal and court fees to promote Neil Wilson’s messianic notions.