UPDATED: Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division President Paul Ratsara Offers Resignation Amid Academic Qualifications Scandal

Paul S. Ratsara, president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of Seventh-day Adventists (SID), has offered his resignation as division president amid an ongoing scandal involving allegations of fraudulent doctoral qualifications. General Conference President Ted N. C. Wilson has asked Pastor Ratsara to reconsider.

Sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed to Spectrum that Ratsara offered his resignation after a majority of members of the SID Executive Committee voted their disapproval of the manner in which Ratsara obtained his doctoral degree from the University of South Africa (Unisa). Spectrum has also confirmed that Hopeson Bonya, elected SID vice president during the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, has confessed that he authored much of Ratsara’s doctoral thesis.

During SID’s regular meeting of the Executive Committee (EXCOM), chaired by SID Executive Secretary Solomon Maphosa and scheduled to end on May 17th, an action was taken to conduct a forensic investigation into Paul Charles and Paul Ratsara's academic qualifications.

Charges that Pastors Ratsara and Charles had used fraudulent doctoral degrees to advance their careers first emerged publicly in an article in the South African daily newspaper The New Age.

SID leaders initially responded with a strongly-worded rebuttal to the charges of fraud, saying “[SID] along with Dr. Paul Ratsara and Dr. Paul Charles, categorically deny the claims contained in a recent article published in the New Age Newspaper. There is simply no truth to any allegations contained in the article and the representations made regarding education and compensation are unfounded."

After further revelations emerged in Spectrum and elsewhere, SID leaders appointed an ad-hoc consulting committee to look into charges against Paul Charles. That investigation led to a public statement on the SID website saying that Paul Charles “does not possess any accredited qualification (degree),” and that Charles would “cease and relinquish the use of any titles associated with those unaccredited degrees [and] complete his studies at an accredited institution...in respect of the South African national standards.”

The statement from SID leaders maintained that “Pastor Charles has not misrepresented facts about where he obtained his qualifications to the Church.”

However, for a group of concerned academics, the statement pointed not to Charles’ innocence regarding the allegations of fraud, but to a broader culture of dishonesty at the highest levels of the division. In an open letter to President Ted Wilson, sixteen academics and church members from SID appealed to the General Conference for intervention.

The letter noted that church members within the division have raised serious questions about Paul Ratsara’s doctorate degree, suggesting that his doctoral dissertation on Women’s Ordination may have relied on work done by the SID Biblical Research Committee for the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), the organization tasked by the Adventist Church with studying the issue of Women’s Ordination in advance of the 2015 General Conference Session. Each of the denomination’s thirteen divisions was asked to convene a Biblical Research Committee to conduct a study of the theology of ordination and to present its report to TOSC. SID presented a summary of its position (strong opposition to women’s ordination) but never submitted its full BRC report to TOSC.

Instead of intervening on behalf of the concerned church members, the General Conference intervened on behalf of the beleaguered SID leaders.

Spectrum has confirmed the following details with sources in the SID with first-hand knowledge of the proceedings.

Members of the SID EXCOM were contacted after the regular meeting ended on May 17 and told not to leave as the committee would reconvene the morning of the 18th. Elder Ted Wilson called Solomon Maphosa and instructed him to reverse the actions of the 17th. Maphosa refused, despite significant pressure to comply. The meeting on the 18th was supposed to be convened to compel the EXCOM to rescind its actions concerning Paul Charles and Paul Ratsara. That meeting never took place.

EXCOM members were then told to make themselves available for a special EXCOM meeting on May 24th to be chaired by Wilson.

All union presidents from within SID were summoned to a pre-meeting on May 23rd with Wilson chairing (Wilson had flown in from Rwanda on Sunday the 22nd, where he was conducting a two-week evangelistic campaign).

The May 24 EXCOM special meeting convened with the clear purpose of protecting Paul Ratsara and Paul Charles. During that meeting, Hopeson Bonya came forward and confessed that he wrote five of the six chapters of Paul Ratsara’s dissertation. At that point, the May 17 action to conduct a forensic audit of Charles’ and Ratsara’s qualifications was rescinded.

In separate actions, the committee entertained a motion to relieve Paul Charles of his duties and allow him to go study at an Adventist institution. That motion failed. A subsequent motion was approved, requiring that Charles finish his BA (his undergraduate studies) in one year while continuing to serve as SID communication director.

A motion was made to ask for Paul Ratsara’s resignation, which was later withdrawn. A motion to "register displeasure at the way the doctorate was obtained by Paul Ratsara" was narrowly supported—30 for and 28 against.

At the end of the day's proceedings late on the evening of the 24th, Elder Wilson asked Ratsara if he wanted to say anything. At that point Ratsara indicated that he wished to step down, citing difficulty being able to serve in the face of what essentially amounted to an implicit no-confidence vote. Elder Wilson responded in front of the committee asking Ratsara to sleep on it, adding that the General Conference might not accept his resignation. Wilson also noted that only the General Conference can act to replace the division president and such an action could only be taken at the General Conference’s Annual Council. All thirteen division presidents are also vice presidents of the General Conference.

During the SID morning office worship this morning, May 25th, an announcement was made that Ratsara had indicated his intention to resign but that Wilson had asked him and his wife Joanne to give it some time, prayer and thought, noting the fact that the GC might not accept his resignation.

Ratsara became SID president in 2005, before which he served the division as executive secretary.

Pastor Ratsara lost his wife, Denise, to cancer in 2013. He married Joanne Davies, who lost her husband to cancer, in November of 2014. The couple have a blended family of nine children.

Amid those significant events in his personal life, Ratsara was also enrolled in a doctoral program at Unisa. Ratsara states that he received a Doctor of Theology (DTh) Degree in Systematic Theology in 2014 from Unisa. However, following Bonya’s confession, it is clear that Ratsara did not complete the work himself. Physical evidence of the degree has not been produced despite requests from church members.

The concerned academics group has formally asked Unisa to conduct an investigation of Ratsara’s doctoral degree. Ratsara is not listed among Unisa’s “illustrious alumni” with degrees in religion, and his dissertation is not available, either in hard copy or electronic copy, from the Unisa Institutional Repository, which “contains and preserves theses and dissertations, research articles, conference papers, rare and special materials and many other digital assets.”

The group has informed Hensley Moorooven, associate secretary of the General Conference, previously SID associate secretary, that the group will also be providing evidence and supporting documents to the South African Department of Higher Education and to Unisa's forensic investigation department.

Ongoing scrutiny of Paul Charles’ doctoral dissertation, submitted to the unaccredited Freedom Institute, has revealed that Charles plagiarized a significant portion of the dissertation from the 1994 book, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, by Dr. Leslie B. Flynn. (As an aside, Flynn used the title “Dr.” as the recipient of an honorary doctoral degree from Denver Seminary.)

UPDATE: Today (May 26) the General Conference issued the following statement:
The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) is working with the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) in reference to questions raised about division leadership. Since this is an ongoing review, certain details remain unclear. We invite you to join us in prayer as we work through this matter.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7477
4 Likes

To offer his resignation is the right thing to do.

It’s just a shame that for many years Mr Ratsara held this secret and presented his qualification fraudulently.
This is a worrying indicator of his character.

18 Likes

Why on earth would President Wilson not accept his resignation? It seems like the obvious thing for Ratsara to do. Clearly there are deeper things going on that I don’t understand.

23 Likes

I want to thank Spectrum for the careful and thorough coverage of this story. I feel sorry for those who have been hurt throughout this event. I hope we can all move forward and enjoy a more honest and transparent future.

20 Likes

Let the second guessing begin.

Pastor TW, this is the ultimate enabling of bad behavior. You have done a great injustice to all parties involved. You should have accepted PR’s resignation with whatever caveat you would have wished but you should have never publicly undercut his EXCOM recommendations. What you have done isn’t anymore different from how parents argue, undermine and sabotage each other on how to discipline their children infront of them. An absolute prohibition under any circumstance. Bad judgment on your part.

Remember the ABCs of behavior. Antecedents, behavior and consequence. No one learns a lesson without consequences.

28 Likes

This level of interference by Ted Wilson is simply breathtaking. If he continues to try to prevent natural justice from taking its course, then I’d predict that by the time this is all over, he himself will be out of a job.

28 Likes

In my opinion, the only appropriate action is to require the resignations of Mr. Ratsara and Mr. Charles, and perhaps Mr.Boyna, depending on whether coercion was used to get him to ghostwrite Ratsara’s paper. To do any less is an affront to all students who work hard and honestly to achieve. This dishonest behavior is inappropriate in any setting; all the more in an organization which purports to follow Jesus and teach others about Him.

25 Likes

Having worked hard, enduring sleepless nights and endless reviews, writing and rewriting my dissertation I think it is indeed an insult for the President to basically give Mr. Ratsara time to thing about this dishonest act. This makes me question the Presidents ability and whether or not he understands how insulting it is to us who have been honest in achieving. Why? Why? Would he want him to sleep on this and reconsider?

20 Likes

I must admit I am becoming disillusioned. This church purport to uphold Jesus Christ and God’s law. Yet its leadership simply ignores subjecting its employees to due process. Instead SID EXCOM becomes s referee and a player, a judge and a jury in the same case despite the loud and evident presence of policies and procedures dealing with fraud and corruption as well as every type of misconduct. How does that happen? As a result, Paul Charles continues as if he, as a senior pastor never conducted himself in a grossly dishonest manner. Then Ted Wilson refuses to accept Ratsara’s resignation. Of course he may not have executive powers. But, currently, how does a person who has indicated his willingness to step down then continue to be productive? How do the two persons namely Dr Ratsara and Bonya continue working together given the acrimonious relationship that has been precipitated by the revelation that the latter wrote 5 chapters of the six that constitute the former’s doctoral thesis? How does PR continue to work with a team that obviously has no confidence in him? Is Ted Wilson aware of the danger that he is plunging the organisation into? What does it mean to hard working pastors some of who are studying right now and those who have been honest in their study? Is Ted really saying it is correct to cheat? In his world cheaters will make it to heaven too? Can PR be trusted? Is Ted paying PR back for being dishonest? I am totally disillusioned.

24 Likes

‘Lyin and Cheatin Leaders’
+++++++++++++++++++

  1. Someone help me out here as I don’t have a PhD. Assuming this report is accurate Ted Wilson is trying to persuade Dr (?) Ratsara not to resign and threatening him that the GC might not accept his resignation. Ted Wilson wants a ‘lyin and cheatin’ Adventist Gospel minister to continue to lead the SID division.

  2. Is Ted Wilson doing a one man show here or does he have the full backing of the GC executive committee? Are they all willing to put their characters and reputation on the line to support Ted Wilsons disregard for Church members concerns and his apparent concern for a probable old friend? - Edgar

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His attempts to interfere with representative processes are not uncommon from what I hear. It’s a style of leadership that’s favored by some who wish he’d exercise even more control.

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Pastor Ted Wilson,

(1) Think very long and hard about how this looks to those who look to you for spiritual leadership.

(2) If you are trying to show us how to “forgive and forget” perhaps you need to reflect even longer.

(3) Nonacceptance of Ratsara’s resignation will have consequences far greater than you might imagine.

(4) The Adventist Church’s credibility is sliding down hill even faster on a crash course into a wall.

26 Likes

Since this story broke in popular press, the church must respond to ensure to the community that we are a group that values integrity that exceeds worldly mores.

Since our group claims to be Christian the church must respond to show that inward and outward honesty are mandatory for our leaders.

Since we view our educational system with pride, in terms of its comprehensiveness and depth, this behavior MUST be reprimanded. Otherwise, we lose confidence in our church’s claims to being able to offer education in the sense as expected by current best practices. I speak as a Christian, SDA member, 18 year SDA alumnus, parent who has spent big bucks on SDA education, and a regular donor to SDA education.

26 Likes

In regard to a previous article concerning what some academics were writing regarding the scandal of obtaining degrees fraudulently, I said that the involved persons should be removed and that the GC should be involved and if not they should also be blamed. They have become involved in the person of President Wilson but instead recognizing the wrong done, which the division president has done by resigning his position, he has in fact supported his guilt by not accepting his resignation. I don’t know the president and no doubt he is a good man but he has made a serious mistake while holding a very important office and he rightly recognizes it and resigns. But what can we say about what the President of the GC does but encouraging him to remain in office. I can’t understand this action. President Wilson thinks that woman’s ordination is wrong but obtaining a degree by false means is all right. Is that really true? The division also was the most opposed to woman’s ordination. Most divisions even when they opposed it in their divisions were willing to allow it to divisions who felt they were ready but this division not only opposed it in its division but also would not allow other divisions that were prepared to do so to do so. No doubt this was based on his dissertation which was mainly written by someone else. But now the isssue of President Wilson. How can we have him continue as our president if he does not consider such an act which Paul Ratsara did as serious enough for him to resign. This is our church, our integrity who claim to have the truth is going down the drain.

40 Likes

What does this incident show us about the attitude of our GC president in regard to higher education? Does he support the objectives of our academic institutions, our universities who think degrees matter?
Smuts van Rooyen

17 Likes

Given how colonialism works, we would have expected Ted Wilson during his visit to the dark continent of Africa to shine a light, stress the importance of accountability, and urge the resignations of Ratsara and Charles. Instead, we see the tutorial about the virtues of honesty and integrity going in the opposite direction; we see that it is Wilson who is being schooled by the Africans.

There is a tinge of racism in the position that Ratsara and Charles should not resign. This position very much rests on the presupposition that Africans are so inherently ignorant and dishonest that we should not burden them with high standards. But as the recent letter from the various academic scholars in Africa establishes, they hold themselves to high standards and are deeply offended by the boasting of fraudulent degrees.

Given that complaints about the fraudulent degrees of Ratsara and Charles were voiced years ago, I can only conclude that Wilson chose to do nothing in order to jigger the San Antonio vote regarding women’s ordination. The political pressure exerted by the non-scholar Ratsara over his subordinates sitting next to him in San Antonio, the substitution of his personal view for the consensus view expressed by biblical scholars in his division (as I perceive to be the case based on limited information), and the incitement of boos and hisses toward Jan Paulsen, who is a bona fide scholar, were indispensable for Wilson to see his “plain-meaning” absurdity of a biblical interpretation narrowly prevail.

What worries me is the negative change in the public perception of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa, as reflected in secular news stories about this controversy. Wilson could have avoided a public scandal if he had acted sooner. It is imperative that he limit the damage done.

The whole controversy represents a breakdown in risk management. The GC needs a director of intelligence. Maybe there is a Seventh-day Adventist in the intelligence community who can be recruited. Threats need to be identified and assessed before harm comes to the Church. Complaints should not be swept underneath the rug. There needs to be strategic thinking about the future. We need people to spend hours looking out the window and thinking about how to prevent crises from occurring. And when crises do occur, we need to investigate what, if anything, could have been done to prevent them from occurring.

32 Likes

This is certainly a case of breaking
Commandment Number 9 Bearing False Witness. Perjury.
It is also breaking the Very 1st Commandment.
"Thou shalt have no other gods before Me’
The god of job.
The god of power, position, authority, control over other persons.
Paul Ratsara certainly had a lot of control and power over his ghostwriter.
For him to felt FORCED to write 5 of the 6 Chapters, and then hide it.
With what I would assume would be a Guilty Conscience all this time.
Can you imagine what he felt every time he had to be in a room with
Paul Ratsara and to see his face, hear his voice!!
The FEAR that if he said anything he would lose HIS job, position,
control, power.
Maybe even have to give his Ordination Certificate back. No longer be
a pastor. The Disgrace to friends, family.
Knowledge that he would probably be sent to some small community.
And the knowledge of what effect this would have on his family and
educational opportunities. Maybe even health access.
I can’t believe that the Executive Committee members are not really angry
about what this all means for the World Church, and for their Division, Unions,
Conferences, and the local members trust in the Seventh day Adventist Church.

But as someone has said earlier on Spectrum –
Maybe this is ONLY the tip of the Iceberg.

EDIT-- Jamesmugo–
That group at SID, when the President came knocking on the door, should have done as Ellen White did when the GC President took the 5 day train from Battle Creek to Elmshaven to see her. SHE REFUSED TO ANSWER THE DOOR. He had to leave and take another 5 days back to Battle Creek.
Ellen left us an example of “It is OK to IGNORE leaders when they come knocking, if their presence is not appropriate.” And his presence was not appropriate at that time. He should have been ignored by that Committee. He caused havock in that Division’s leadership council. May take a very, very long time to repair. Especially now that all this has gone Viral on many FaceBook sites where SDAs around the world reside and can make up their own mind in their own home late at night.
I’ve received it at least 3 times from various persons I have as friends around the world.

EDIT 5/27-- To those as pastors or other leaders.
To those still members.
We have to be careful in THINKING we are working for The Church.
The Church are ALL of GOD’s children around the world. Those in your Community who Love God, those in your Community who do not know God yet, but are still keeping the First 3 Commandments and the Last 6 Commandments without realizing it.
Yes, even if your check says SDA somewhere on it, you are called to serve ALL of these above.
Close your eyes, Open your arms, EMBRACE.
You are called to do, as your Boss, Jesus said, “To do the Works of the Father”. NOT the works of some church. Jesus had to abandon “the church” in His day to do the Works of the Father. Jesus had to IGNORE the Church Superiors of His day in order to do The Works of The Father.
We have to become like Jesus. Paul says THIS is OUR CALLING. To DO the Works of HIM - GOD who “sent ME- Jesus”.
We are not called to do the works that come from some list of Dos and Donts from human organizations. Find your Calling. Do The Works. Bless your Community.

13 Likes

As disturbing as the reports of these top church administrators obtaining degrees by fraudulent means are, the news that Ted Wilson would not accept the resignation of one of these leaders is even more distressing. Ratsara’s decision to resign in the face of these revelations is the only right and honorable thing to do. For Wilson to not accept this gesture is simply wrong and just as unethical as the actions of these leaders. How can the president of the world church, who cares so much for the “truth,” care so little about the untruthful actions of one of his leaders? Remarkable.

29 Likes

This is a very careful, measured report, Jared. It is also very informative.

Elder Wilson’s personal support of Elder Ratsara is sending a clear signal to indigenous leadership in the Division’s of the church that without Elder Wilson’s personal support, their leadership will increasingly come under threat from outside their territory, thanks primarily to independent Seventh-day Adventist journalism not controlled by the denomination.

The question now it seems is whether when they meet this fall the majority of the General Conference Executive Committee who are not practicing moral turpitude will oust Elder Wilson as General Conference President for lacking elemental moral judgement and in so doing take a stand for reestablishing the highest ethical standards for church leadership.

24 Likes

These men maybe very able leaders. none the less they were deceitful to the nominating committee, to the. Church body of which they were appointed. Their resignation was the first honorable act in this series of keystone. Cops.

The problem is Ted Wilson’s doctorate is very lame also–which may have influenced his call to reconsider.

“Truth for ever on the scaffold” Tom Z

14 Likes